Manassas Journal Messenger | American Indian veterans honored

A warrior faces challenges each day, whether or not he is fighting in a war.

“They give themselves to God for their country, for the safety of their people, land and all the people who live there,” said Jackie Singer, commander of Walk with the Warriors, an inter-tribal group of American Indians fighting to remember veterans.

Lakota Sioux, Mohawk, Blackfoot, Navajo, Seminole and Menominee tribes danced and sang in honor of all military veterans this weekend at a powwow in Dumfries.

Today their powwow continues at Merchant Park in a tribute to fallen heroes, fighting soldiers and forgotten sacrifices.

Their efforts have resulted in pending legislation to commemorate today, Nov. 7, as Native American Veterans Day and this weekend marked celebrations for the proposed holiday.

American Indians volunteered to fight in armies before they became citizens and Navajo code talkers provided the American forces a great advantage in communication during battles.

Two years ago, Walk with Warriors was making its first annual walk from California to Washington, D.C., when leaders met Dumfries Mayor Melvin “Mel” Bray, who gave them a key to the city.

Bray invited the group to organize a powwow in the town this year and said next year’s powwow would be one that attendees won’t forget.

Bray, a Marine Corps veteran, said the honor that the tribes bestowed on veterans was important.

Ret. Staff Sgt. Warren Wilber also served in the Marines. Today he lives in Keshema, Wis.

He’s also the commander of Veterans of the Menominee Nation, a tribe from Wisconsin.

“When you’re in combat, you don’t see a black man, a red man or a yellow man,” Wilber said. “You see your brother and it stays with you forever.”

He said age means nothing when you’re a warrior. A young boy can be a warrior by accepting responsibility to take care of his family, he said.

During the ceremonies dancers from various tribes waved their brilliant costumes and led different groups around the circle as the Dzil Dahizilii Singers wailed joyous notes.

Drums were steadily pounded and echoed against surrounding apartment buildings, museums and churches.

Ret. Master Sgt. Marvin Burnette, a Lakota Sioux, was the powwow’s head male dancer.

Under his feathered headdress and bustle, Burnette wore a starry blue shirt with red and white stripes with two American flag banners waving from his waistline.

He carried an eagle claw staff to honor the fallen warriors.

“It’s good to see them doing this,” said Walt Wood, who works for the Army and lives in Dale City. “There’s a lot of veterans who are Native Americans and they’re very patriotic. Honor and service [to them] are big.”

Allan Caldwell, another member of Veterans of the Menominee Nation, said their work as warriors continues in their community as they raise money to help families send students to school and offer themselves as role models to high school students.

A handful of Menominee Nation members danced during the powwow, each wearing combat boots and white shirts and blue pants.

Each of them raised and planted his feet as they traveled around the circle to the beat of the Mystic River Drums.

“Even though we took our uniforms off years ago, we still have a responsibility to take care of our community,” said Caldwell when they had finished dancing.

One in four American Indians joins the military, he said.

“For a lot of us this is still our land. Even though a lot of it’s been dispossessed from us, we will defend it to the death,” Caldwell said. “Like I said, the warriors have a responsibility.”


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