The Warrior Tradition

  • Fred Vigeant

Explore the complicated ways the culture and traditions of Native Americans have affected their participation in the United States military when The Warrior Tradition premiering on WITF Monday November 11 at 9 pm.

The Warrior Tradition, co-produced by WNED-TV Buffalo Toronto and Florentine Films/Hott Productions, Inc., tells the stories of Native American warriors from their own points of view – stories of service and pain, of courage and fear.

The film dispels the old duality of the Noble Savage/helpless victim that has dominated our cultural portrait of Native Americans for more than a century. But it’s a more complicated story. Indian warriors have a wide mix of emotions and motives – patriotism, pride, rage, courage, practicality, and spirituality, all mingling with an abiding respect for tribal, familial, and national traditions. Even the numbers tell a story. During World War I, not all Native Americans were even citizens of the United States, and couldn’t be drafted, yet more than 12,000 Indian men volunteered. Even in Vietnam, an unpopular war, 90 percent of the 42,000 Native people who served were volunteers.

Photo by Christian Barthelmess. National Archives.

Apache Scouts at Fort Apache circa 1884. The man seated in the center is “Cut-Mouth,” the first sergeant of Company A.

More than a dozen Native American veterans appear in the film, having served in Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Army National Guard. They each have their own reasons for having served and for how the warrior tradition played a role in their lives. Among those who share their stories are veterans of wars and conflicts ranging from World War II to ongoing deployments in the Middle East. They are members of tribes from all over the United States, including the Comanche and Apache Tribes of Oklahoma, the Mississippi Choctaw, Navajo Nation, and the Menominee, among many others.

There’s more to the story than heroism. And there’s more than one way to be a warrior. Watch Warrior Tradition on Veteran’s Day Monday November 11 at 9:00pm on WITF.  This documentary will also be available through the PBS Video app.

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