Respect for ‘people, homelands, culture’ motivates Native American troops

Air Force Master Sgt. Shenandoah Ellis-Ulmer, second from left, poses with other members of the Native American Women Warriors, an all-female color guard that support Native female veterans. (Photo courtesy Shenandoah Ellis-Ulmer)

Air Force Master Sgt. Shenandoah Ellis-Ulmer, second from left, poses with other members of the Native American Women Warriors, an all-female color guard that support Native female veterans. (Photo courtesy Shenandoah Ellis-Ulmer)

By Mallory Black , Medill News Service

Even with a family military background dating back to World War I, Shenandoah Ellis-Ulmer never considered while growing up that serving in the military might be the right choice for her, too.

But that changed in her sophomore year in college after she was placed on academic probation at the University of Minnesota — what she now says was a much-needed wakeup call to spur her to seek more purpose and direction.

Still unclear, though, was exactly what purpose she should pursue and what direction she should take.

Then she recalled overhearing two classmates in the National Guard talk about the opportunities that had opened up to them after enlisting.

And for Ellis-Ulmer, there was that purpose and direction.

Nearly 20 years later, Air Force Master Sgt. Shenandoah Ellis-Ulmer, now 40, is an intelligence analyst at Fairchild Air Force Base in Spokane, Washington.

She’s also a member of the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate of the Lake Traverse Reservation in South Dakota, the first woman in her family to serve in the military and just one of thousands of Native Americans who are serving or have served their country in uniform.

Ellis-Ulmer, who has served in South Korea and the Middle East in addition to her various stateside assignments, said serving in the Air Force “has given my children, my husband and myself a different outlook on the world.”

“I want to give my children a different perspective on life because life is not what the reservation is,” she said. “Life is what you make of it.”

A tradition of service

Army Lt. Col Tracey Clyde, a Navajo from Shiprock, New Mexico, during a deployment to Joint Base Balad in Iraq. (Photo courtesy Tracey Clyde)

Army Lt. Col Tracey Clyde, a Navajo from Shiprock, New Mexico, during a deployment to Joint Base Balad in Iraq. (Photo courtesy Tracey Clyde)

The Defense Department reports a total of 27,186 American Indian and Alaska Native active-duty officers and reserves, and the Veterans Affairs Department reports more than 156,000 Native American veterans. They have served in every war in American history, and 25 have have received the nation’s highest award for valor, the Medal of Honor.

At least 70 Native American and Alaska Natives have died during combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and 513 others were wounded in those combat zones.

Native Americans traditionally have had a strong military presence because they have a strong sense of patriotism, said Clara Platte, executive director of the Navajo Nation Washington office.

“There’s a deep tie to the land and our people and our culture, and being able to serve in the military is a way to honor that heritage,” Platte said.

But that doesn’t mean the cultural transition from “Indian Country” to military base is always easy.

Army Lt. Col. Tracey Clyde, 47, a member of the Navajo tribe, spent most of his childhood with his grandparents herding sheep near the Sweetwater Chapter on the Navajo Nation reservation in New Mexico.

In high school, Clyde decided to set his sights on attending the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York.

But once there, he soon realized that adapting to the social norms might be a challenge — even in simple things like the slang cadets might use to greet each other.

“One of the things that I had to keep from getting mad at was when they talk to each other and sometimes say, ‘Hey chief,’ ” Clyde said. “That’s one thing I got mad at my roommate for, but then I noticed other cadets my age were saying the same thing to each other.”

Clyde quickly figured out the greeting wasn’t meant to be derogatory and found his footing as an Army officer. Then while he was stationed in Seoul, South Korea, his Native American culture found him again.

A fellow officer who was also Navajo told him that her baby had just laughed for the first time. Navajos traditionally celebrate a baby’s first laugh, so Clyde and other Native Americans on their base held a ceremony, asking for the baby to be blessed by generosity and kindness.

“All Native Americans — whether they were Navajo or not — met in her apartment and we had our ‘first laugh’ party,” said Clyde, now assigned to the Army Human Resources Command at Fort Knox, Kentucky. “Even though we were far away from our homelands, we still took the opportunity to continue our culture regardless of where we were stationed.”

Throughout his 25 years in uniform, Clyde has taken every opportunity to help other Native Americans adjust to life in the military, so “they’re not so culturally shocked with all the stuff they’re thrown into.”

An honorable life

Ellis-Ulmer, who has deployed 15 times to the Middle East, said that for her, and for most Native Americans, serving in the military is considered an honorable life.

A survivor of childhood sex abuse and domestic violence as an adult, Ellis-Ulmer does her part to help other Native American women who have lived that life.

As a member of the Native American Women Warriors, an all-women color guard that supports Native American female veterans dealing with homelessness, sexual assault trauma and the transition back to civilian life, Ellis-Ulmer regularly speaks at powwows and community events to raise awareness of veteran issues.

“I don’t think I’ve come across one Native woman who has said that they were not abused, whether it was by their husbands, their partners or their family members,” Ellis-Ulmer said. “Dealing with all these violent acts against Native women is my motivation because I don’t want this mentality of abuse to perpetuate.”

As a way to show her appreciation for what the Air Force has done for her, Ellis-Ulmer speaks about military life as part of the We Are All Recruiters program, which allows active-duty members to recruit for the Air Force in their own communities.

Recently the Santee Sioux tribe honored her for her military service with a golden eagle tail feather.

“They told me to wear it turned down,” she explained, “Because now I’m a warrior to them.”

Natives & the Military: 10 Facts You Might Not Know

 

 

WikipediaBattle of Chochiwon, 1950Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2014/01/09/natives-military-10-facts-you-might-not-know-153032

Wikipedia
Battle of Chochiwon, 1950

Vincent Schilling

1/9/14 ICTMN.com

Considering American Indian and Alaska Native Veterans have served in every branch of the U.S. Military for well over the past 200 years, It goes without saying that their efforts and histories of distinguished services should be recognized.

In addition to any recognition, while studying the facts surrounding Native Veterans through such reports as released by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) or the historical accounts of War Department officials, you will discover some interesting facts about Native Veterans outside the fact that American Indians serve at a high rate and have a higher concentration of female servicemembers.

Here are 10 interesting and surprising facts we found:

Detail from cover of The Blue, the Grey and the Red, still one of the under-told stories of the U.S. Civil War.

Detail from cover of The Blue, the Grey and the Red, still one of the under-told stories of the U.S. Civil War.

An Active Role in the Civil War

According to an extract from ‘A Compendium of the War of the Rebellion by Frederick H. Dyer’ In 1862, several Indian Home Guard Regiments were organized and expedited in Indian territories and utilized for several years by the Union Army during the Civil War. Statistics show just fewer than 3,600 Native Americans served in the Union Army during the war.

Stan Watie, left, & Ely S. Parker (Courtesy Wikipedia)

Stan Watie, left, & Ely S. Parker (Courtesy Wikipedia)

Two Civil War Generals of Distinction

Stan Watie (Cherokee) joined the Confederate Army to become a notoriously fearsome General and the last Confederate General to Surrender. Ely S. Parker (Seneca) whose father fought in the War of 1812, enlisted into the Union Army rose to become General and served on the staff of Ulysses S. Grant.

Cherokee patient, World War I. U.S. Base Hospital No. 41, Paris, France, c. 1917-18. (Courtesy U.S. National Library of Medicine)

Cherokee patient, World War I. U.S. Base Hospital No. 41, Paris, France, c. 1917-18. (Courtesy U.S. National Library of Medicine)

 

12,000 for World War I

When World War I started, American Indians were not considered U.S. citizens, but that did not stop approximately 12,000 Natives from volunteering to serve in the U.S. military. In addition, four American Indian soldiers serving in the 142nd Infantry of the 36th Texas-Oklahoma National Guard Division received the Croix de Guerre medal from France.

Courtesy womensmemorial.org

Courtesy womensmemorial.org

 

Native Women Doing Their Part

During WWI, 14 American Indian women served in the Army Nurse Corps, with two of them serving overseas. Mrs. Cora E. Sinnard, (Oneida) and Charlotte Edith (Anderson) Monture (Mohawk) both served as Army Nurses in France at a military hospital to lend their skills toward the war efforts overseas. Monture, who referred to her service as ‘the adventure of a lifetime,” died in 1996 at the age of 106.

October 29, 1940, U.S. Attorney General Robert Jackson draws the third draft lottery number from a large jar, as President Franklin Roosevelt looks on. (Courtesy nationalww2museum.org)

October 29, 1940, U.S. Attorney General Robert Jackson draws the third draft lottery number from a large jar, as President Franklin Roosevelt looks on. (Courtesy nationalww2museum.org)

A Draft Could Have Been Avoided

War Department officials have stated, that during WWII, if the entire population had enlisted at the same rate American Indians did, Selective Service would have been unnecessary. According to the Selective Service in 1942, at least 99 percent of all eligible Indians, healthy males aged 21 to 44, had registered for the draft. The annual enlistment for Native Americans jumped from 7,500 in the summer of 1942 to 22,000 at the beginning of 1945.

 

    In a file photo U.S. Marines of the 28th Regiment of the Fifth Division raise the American flag atop Mt. Suribachi, Iwo Jima, on Feb. 23, 1945. Joe Rosenthal, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his immortal image of six World War II servicemen raising an American flag over battle-scarred Iwo Jima, died Sunday. He was 94.

In a file photo U.S. Marines of the 28th Regiment of the Fifth Division raise the American flag atop Mt. Suribachi, Iwo Jima, on Feb. 23, 1945. Joe Rosenthal, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his immortal image of six World War II servicemen raising an American flag over battle-scarred Iwo Jima, died Sunday. He was 94.

The Ten Percenters

By the end of the WWII, 24,521 reservation Indians and another 20,000 off-reservation Indians had served in the military effort – or 10 percent of the American Indian population. This combined figure of 44,500 represented one-third of all able-bodied Indian men from 18 to 50 years of age. In some tribes, the percentage of men in the military reached as high as 70 percent.

The Native American Marine Corps Women Reservists are pictured at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina on October 16, 1943. Pictured, from left, are: Minnie Spotted Wolf (Blackfoot Tribe), Celia Mix (Potawatomi Tribe), and Viola Eastman (Chippewa Tribe). (Courtesy U.S. Marine Corps)

The Native American Marine Corps Women Reservists are pictured at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina on October 16, 1943. Pictured, from left, are: Minnie Spotted Wolf (Blackfoot Tribe), Celia Mix (Potawatomi Tribe), and Viola Eastman (Chippewa Tribe). (Courtesy U.S. Marine Corps)

800 Native Women Warriors Strong

Throughout WWII, nearly 800 American Indian women served in the U.S. military. Elva (Tapedo) Wale, Kiowa; Corporal Bernice (Firstshoot) Bailey of Lodge Pole, Montana, Beatrice (Coffey) Thayer and Alida (Whipple) Fletcher are just a few of the servicewomen that served during WWII. These brave women served with such units as the Army Corps, the Army Nurse Corps and as WAVES, ‘Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service.’

U.S. Army troops taking a break while on patrol in Vietnam War (Courtesy R.W. Trewyn, Ph.D./U.S. Army Operations in Vietnam

U.S. Army troops taking a break while on patrol in Vietnam War (Courtesy R.W. Trewyn, Ph.D./U.S. Army Operations in Vietnam

 

90 Percent Volunteer Through Vietnam Era

Throughout the Vietnam Era, American Indians enlisted in the military to the tune of more than 42,000 – 90 percent of them were volunteers, with the others serving trough draft selection. After Vietnam, Natives have continued to serve in high numbers. Since that time, Native servicemembers have seen military action and combat in Grenada, Panama, Somalia, the Gulf War, and in Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Operation New Dawn (OND).

 united_states_department_of_the_navy_seal.svg_

Navy Warriors

According to the 2012 VA report, nearly 50 percent of Native servicemembers served in the Navy in comparison to 14 percent of all other servicemembers of other ethnicities.

 fort-mcdowell-veterans-association-1

Five Years and You’re Out – Less for Officers

The VA also states that approximately 70 percent of Native servicemembers served five years or fewer and about 27 percent serve between six and 20 years. In terms of officers, only 6 percent of Native servicemembers were officers, while other ethnicities are roughly 2.5 time that rate.

Double-Dip Hell: NCAI Demands Illegally Taxed Native Veterans Get Paid

Megan Baker, Indian Country Today Media Network

The National Congress of American Indians passed a resolution recently urging Congress to recompense eligible Native American service members and veterans who were illegally taxed by the state in which their reservation was domiciled during their active service.

According to federal law, service members with active duty status who legally claim to live on federal reservations are not subject to income taxation by the state in which the reservation is domiciled.

This new resolution argues that 26 states have taxed service members for as long as 24 years.

Nine years ago, an attempt was made in Washington D.C. to address this issue.

The American Indian Veterans Pay Restoration Act of 2004, sponsored by New Mexico Representative Tom Udall, sought to provide remittance to certain Indian veterans of amounts withheld from military basic pay for state income tax purposes while those veterans were in active service and were domiciled in Indian Country.

In his introduction speech, Udall decried the illegal taxation of service members that claimed the reservation as their home. The legislation failed due to a lack of support in the House Armed Services Committee.

In December 2009, the state of New Mexico began to refund any state income tax that was withheld from service members legally domiciled on reservation land while serving.

The fund expired on January 1, 2013. Other states have yet to follow suit.

During the 2013 Midyear Session of the NCAI held in Reno, Nevada from June 24 through 27, the General Assembly called upon the federal government to fulfill its obligations to American Indians, citing its moral and legal federal trust responsibility.

This new resolution will be a policy of the NCAI until it is withdrawn or modified by subsequent resolution.

 

Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2013/08/04/recompense-illegally-taxed-native-american-veterans-says-ncai-150732