Strong Hearts, Wounded Souls: Native American Veterans of the Vietnam War


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She is a member of the Crow Creek Sioux tribe. She is coeditor and coauthor of the edition of Felix S.

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She is coprincipal investigator of Project Peacemaker, an initiative to develop and implement curricula in tribal legal studies at several different tribal colleges. He is working on the concept of peoplehood as a model for American Indian studies. His military service was with the U. Marine Corps from to , with service in Vietnam from to Daniel Heath Justice is an enrolled citizen of the Cherokee Nation and assistant professor of aboriginal literatures at the University of Toronto.

He is the author of Catch Colt, Captured in the Middle , and numerous reviews and articles in the field of American Indian studies. She is a member of the Navajo Nation. Her research interests concentrate on American Indian justice issues including social and legal justice, tribal sovereignty, and health policy. Her current research project examines leadership and cultural maintenance in Indian country. Susan A. Trained as a historian, she writes about decolonization of indigenous nations and interprets events within indigenous conceptual frameworks. Marie Ralstin-Lewis Cherokee is a doctoral student in sociology at the University of Oregon where her research focuses on race and ethnicity, ethnic identity, visual sociology, and reproductive technologies.

Currently, she The tribe knew the experiences the warrior would encounter would threaten his or her physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being, and that cleansing, healing and letting go ceremonies were needed to counterbalance these experiences.


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Tribal members understood that ceremonies had to take place in order to help warriors manage the transition from warrior roles back to those they had previously held in their communities: the roles of parents, sons and daughters, sisters and brothers, and community leaders. They felt that failing to perform these ceremonies was detrimental not only for the warrior, but also for his family and tribe.

Today, many native people believe their communities continue to experience the effects associated with participation in past conflicts, and failure to provide ceremonies for cleansing, healing, and letting go. While many tribes today are not practicing these ceremonies, there are still some tribes that do. Two examples of tribes that continue such traditions are the Zuni Pueblo and the Navajo through the Enemy Way Ceremony.

Other tribes are attempting to revive these ceremonies, trying to overcome the challenges that come with not having done them for so long. Large numbers of Native Americans enlist for military service and represent the highest per capita enlistment of any ethnic group in the United States. The reasons vary from supporting their families and ensuring economic stability, to seeing the world. The stories captured on the DVD present firsthand accounts of trauma and life changes as a result of military service.

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Honoring Native American Veterans

When World War I erupted, young native men enlisted in numbers that many people might think surprising, considering Native Americans had not yet been granted U. The number of Native Americans serving in the military remained high during World War II, even when the social climate was such that Native Americans were not allowed to patronize businesses in many reservation border towns in the Southwest and Plains states.


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  • Despite experiencing discrimination and prejudice, Native Americans proudly displayed portraits of young men in uniform in their homes during this period. During the last half of the 20th century, Native Americans were frequently forced to assimilate and many ceremonial practices began to disappear or go underground. Additionally, employment rates on or near reservations continued to decrease. As a result, serving in the military became a rite of passage for many young native men.

    Today, this practice continues not only with our young men, but also with many young native women. Why did so many native people choose to serve their country? As presented in the DVD, there were many factors, not the least being the tradition many tribes have of protecting the community. On a more practical level, young natives often join the military because it is a way to see the world, support their families, pay for education, and gain experiences that are not available in their own communities. The challenges facing native veterans today are similar to those facing veterans of all ethnicities throughout the United States.

    These challenges include access to healthcare, substance abuse, unemployment, homelessness, and mental health issues, including post-traumatic stress disorder PTSD. Veterans may have different needs depending on the era in which they served and the social climate regarding service; World War II veterans may be hesitant to apply for benefits, feeling they were just doing their duty.

    Veterans Ask Native Americans For Forgiveness At Standing Rock

    Korean Veterans may have health needs related to the cold weather endured during their service. Vietnam veterans may experience physical issues related to Agent Orange, and younger veterans may have symptoms of Gulf War syndrome. Veterans who served during peacetime also need to be aware of the benefits for which they are eligible and how to apply. Veterans from all eras may experience some level of post-traumatic stress, but not all do. For those who do have post-traumatic stress, the severity can vary. In some cases, institutionalized racism may have influenced the extent to which certain groups are susceptible to PTSD.

    Native veterans, for example, commonly confronted stereotypes held within the military regarding natives. In these cases, the level of post-traumatic stress may be more severe and the use of coping mechanisms, including alcohol and drug use, may be more common. Upon returning home, native veterans may face challenges in accessing care.

    These logistical challenges make it more important for tribes, agencies, and communities to be creative in how they approach working with native veterans. Language, culture, and ceremony are being revived and acknowledged as integral factors in the healing process. The following is an excerpt from an electronic article on the Matsunaga Vietnam Veterans Project, which assessed the readjustment experience of Indian, Japanese , and native Hawaiian veterans of the Vietnam War.

    The article, published by the U.

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    Department of Veterans Affairs, begins here and can be followed by clicking on the link at the bottom of the page. Military personnel of many ethnic backgrounds served with distinction in the Vietnam War. To extend the study findings to other minority veterans, the late Senator from Hawaii, Spark Matsunaga, initiated a major project to assess the readjustment experience of American Indian, Japanese, and native Hawaiian veterans of the Vietnam War.

    The Matsunaga Project involved two parallel studies. The Indian Vietnam Veterans Project surveyed a sample of Vietnam in-country veterans residing on or near two large tribal reservations, one in the Southwest and the other in the Northern Plains. These populations had sufficient numbers of Vietnam military veterans to draw scientifically and culturally sound conclusions about the war and readjustment experiences. Posttraumatic Stress Disorder PTSD is an anxiety disorder that can occur after one has been through a traumatic event. During this type of event, you may think that your life or others' lives are in danger.

    You may feel afraid or feel that you have no control over what is happening. After the event, you may feel scared, confused, or angry. If these feelings don't go away or they get worse, you may have PTSD. These symptoms may disrupt your life, making it hard to continue with your daily activities. All people with PTSD have lived through a traumatic event that caused them to fear for their lives, see horrible things, and feel helpless. Strong emotions caused by the event create changes in the brain that may result in PTSD.

    Most people who go through a traumatic event have some symptoms at the beginning; yet only some will develop PTSD. It isn't clear why some people develop PTSD and others don't. How likely you are to get PTSD depends on many things. These include:. Many people who develop PTSD get better at some point in time. But about one out of three people with PTSD may continue to have some symptoms. Even if you continue to have symptoms, treatment can help you cope. Your symptoms don't have to interfere with your everyday activities, work, and relationships. Symptoms of PTSD can be terrifying.

    They may disrupt your life and make it hard to continue with your daily activities. It may be hard to get through the day. PTSD symptoms usually start soon after the traumatic event, but they may not happen until months or years later. They also may come and go over many years. If the symptoms last longer than 4 weeks, cause you great distress, or interfere with your work or home life, you probably have PTSD. Bad memories of the traumatic event can come back at any time. You may feel the same fear and horror you did when the event took place.

    You may have nightmares. You may even feel like you're going through the event again. This is called a flashback. Sometimes there is a trigger: a sound or sight that causes you to relive the event. The following are examples of these triggers:. You may try to avoid situations or people that trigger memories of the traumatic event.

    You may even avoid talking or thinking about the event. You may be jittery, or always alert and on the lookout for danger. This is known as hyper-arousal and may cause you to:. When you have PTSD, dealing with the past can be hard. Instead of telling others how you feel, you may keep your feelings bottled up. But treatment can help you get better. There are good treatments available for PTSD.

    Cognitive-behavioral therapy CBT is one type of counseling. It appears to be the most effective type of counseling for PTSD. There are different types of cognitive behavioral therapies such as cognitive therapy and exposure therapy. Medications can be effective too. If you have never sought or received care from a DVA hospital or clinic, the following contact information can be used to begin the application process and enroll in DVA medical care:. Every VA medical center and clinic has a PTSD specialist who is familiar with readjustment problems caused by war trauma and who can provide you with a thorough evaluation and recommendations for treatment.

    Additionally, you can e-mail ncptsd va. The publications and websites listed on this page do not reflect a comprehensive listing of all existing resources; however, they do provide a variety of the types of resources available in print and on the Internet. The link below is to a U. Department of Defense publication, 20th Century Warriors: Native American Participation in the United States Military, which provides readers with an overview of contributions specific to that time period.

    Skip to main content. Social sharing. Administration for Children and Families. Search form Search. The Healing Power of Stories Storytelling has often played an essential part in healing in indigenous cultures.

    Honoring Native American Veterans | Los Angeles Public Library

    Encouraging students to interview veterans as a history project and create a booklet of the interviews for distribution. These items can be copied or scanned to create community scrapbooks or displays for inclusion in a community history event coinciding with Veterans Day or Memorial Day. Tips on Using Storytelling for Healing with facilitation questions The audience for Storytelling for Healing is intended to be diverse.

    Facilitation Questions: A number of storytellers spoke about the significant role his or her comrades played during their time in the service. What individual from the video stands out for you and why? From your military experience, is there a person who had particular importance to you while serving?

    Strong Hearts, Wounded Souls: Native American Veterans of the Vietnam War Strong Hearts, Wounded Souls: Native American Veterans of the Vietnam War
    Strong Hearts, Wounded Souls: Native American Veterans of the Vietnam War Strong Hearts, Wounded Souls: Native American Veterans of the Vietnam War
    Strong Hearts, Wounded Souls: Native American Veterans of the Vietnam War Strong Hearts, Wounded Souls: Native American Veterans of the Vietnam War
    Strong Hearts, Wounded Souls: Native American Veterans of the Vietnam War Strong Hearts, Wounded Souls: Native American Veterans of the Vietnam War
    Strong Hearts, Wounded Souls: Native American Veterans of the Vietnam War Strong Hearts, Wounded Souls: Native American Veterans of the Vietnam War
    Strong Hearts, Wounded Souls: Native American Veterans of the Vietnam War Strong Hearts, Wounded Souls: Native American Veterans of the Vietnam War

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