Rosebud’s Chauncey Eagle Horn American Legion postponed their Monday services at local cemeteries due to the rain. They plan to follow their previously advertised schedule on May 30, 2015. The Sicangu Lakota Warriors could also be visiting cemeteries on Saturday. This is the traditional Memorial Day, when we visit with our friends and relatives as we also remember our family members who have made their journey.
Memorial Day is a time set aside to remember our Akicita or Soldiers. The memory of soldiers protecting the people goes back a long way for the Lakota. As tribal people, we could always remember our ancestors who fought and died so we could be here today. Family members will also remember other relatives who have made their journey more recently.
Flags and flowers are on display this week at our local cemeteries. There are two days designated as Memorial Day this week. One is the legal holiday recognized by this country. This is what gives us the three day weekend. Many people refer to it as the first official weekend of the summer. Many veterans visited local cemeteries over the weekend to acknowledge the service provided by the soldiers buried there.
Lakota families will decorate graves with flowers and other mementos. They might spend all day at the cemetery. Many will go to the cemetery on both days. Some will prepare plates filled with treats to offer their friends and relatives. Others will prepare and serve meals to veterans visiting the cemetery. The sharing of food with the living, in memory of a loved one, is an honorable expression of the Lakota virtue of generosity.
Native Americans are also known to have the highest enlistment rate in the armed forces. Yet, our tribal people are also divided on the fact that so many of our own enlist in the military. Some may view this enlistment rate as a tribute to the warrior spirit of our people. Others will believe military enlistment is something our young people shouldn’t be doing. After all, our own Lakota people are committing to serving in a force which has historically worked to annihilate us.
Despite this turbulent history our people have had with the US government, it is still a fact that Native Americans continue to enlist at a very high rate. We have tribal veterans from every war era the United States has been involved in. Many volunteered their service. For some people, military enlistment is a way to earn a steady paycheck. Many must live far away from their homelands in order to make a living.
There are veterans who have been honorably discharged and return to their reservation but remain unemployed. They may have left home with the goal of getting work experience or earning money for college. I doubt any of them intend to come home and not be able to find a job, but reality on the Rez is there is a shortage of jobs.
Also, many veterans who want to move their family home after their time in the service are often unable to find housing. There is a very long waiting list for tribal housing on most reservations. Many of our Lakota soldiers are forced to find housing and jobs away from their extended families due to shortages on the Rez.
Yet, the veterans who do live on the Rez find ways to provide for their families. Many of them participate in our local ceremonies, which only the veterans can lead. For example, we look for the Color Guard to lead in the graduation or wacipi grand entry. We also look to veterans during funerals calling for military honors; as well as Memorial Day and Veterans Day to help us honor their deceased comrades.
Lakota veterans play in integral part in our modern society. We could all learn to honor their service. They are members of our family and tribe first. This week I offer a special thank you to all the Lakota Veterans – past, present and future.
Vi Waln is Sicangu Lakota and resides on the Rosebud Reservation.