October 18, 2007

Native version of The War

Professor’s film on Native American soldiers to air on PBSPatty Loew, a veteran television journalist and an associate professor of life sciences communication, has long wondered what motivated men such as DeNomie, who also happens to be her grandfather, to fight for a country that considered them outsiders. Now, she has produced “Way of the Warrior,” a one-hour documentary that will air nationally on the PBS network in November, to explore these questions.

In chronicling the war stories of Native American soldiers from World War I to Vietnam, “Way of the Warrior” offers an interesting counterpart to Ken Burns’ seven-part series, “The War,” which was criticized by some for neglecting the contributions of minority soldiers in World War II. Like Burns, Loew uses historical footage, primary documents and interviews with veterans and their families to relate deeply personal tales of bravery, heroism and loss. But she also probes social stereotypes and aspects of tribal cultures that have made the experiences of Native American soldiers unique.
How stereotypes kill soldiers:One common theme that emerges from Loew’s interviews is the danger many Native American soldiers encountered in combat. Loew says Native American soldiers were more likely to be placed in frontline positions, which she attributes to fantastical notions about Native Americans’ bravery and skill in the frontier.

“They were seen as super-warriors, who were supposedly extraordinarily brave and fierce,” she says. “Because of those stereotypes, Native Americans often saw some of the most dangerous duties in combat. They were disproportionately the ones walking point or jumping behind enemy lines.”

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