September 24, 2008

The Army's Lakota helicopter

Pilots fly Lakota to Sioux powwowFort Polk's 5th Aviation Battalion has been flying the Army's new utility helicopter for a year, and Monday pilots had a chance to meet the namesake of their birds, the Lakota tribe of South Dakota.

The pilots were invited to participate in the tribe's annual sun dance, a traditional religious and cultural ceremony that honors warriors and elders of the Lakota Sioux tribe that lent its name to the UH-72 Light Utility Helicopter.
And:The unit flew two helicopters to Rosebud, S.D., and displayed them at a local university and the sun dance ceremony. The pilots took the opportunity to learn more about Lakota culture. The tribe refers to its veterans as "warriors," and regards them with the same esteem that their ancestors did centuries ago.

"Even now, when they join one of the armed forces, in their society they are considered warriors," said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Allen Galbreath, who also flew to the ceremony.
Plus this odd bit of history:"It's actually quite a process to name a helicopter," said Galbreath. "There is a Department of Defense directive that requires the naming of helicopters after Indian tribes. The tribes put in a request to have the helicopter named after them. The tribes characteristics also should fit the characteristics and uses of the airframe.

"The Lakota were known as peaceful people, and 'one with the earth,' so that's how this helicopter came to be known as the Lakota. They were disappointed that it didn't have guns on it, though."

"The Lakota are famous for wiping out the 7th Cavalry during the Indian Wars of the 19th century though," said Dunn, noting the irony.

"They are peaceful up to a point!" said Galbreath.
Comment:  The Rosebud Sioux are only one of several Lakota tribes in South Dakota, of course. They aren't the Lakota tribe of South Dakota.

And the Lakota...peaceful? That's not the first word that comes to mind when I think of them.

So these Lakota are proud of their warriors. And they requested a military helicopter to be named for them. But they sought this name to emphasize how they're peaceful, not warlike? Uh-huh, sure they did.

For more on the subject, see Indian Nicknames for Military Craft.


gaZelbe said...

This issue is unbelievably complicated. Indian tribes, especially those with military-oriented cultures have necessarily complex relationships with their conquerers and their own cultural imperatives.

Its an issue that to my knowledge, has never been explored well and I have seen a few well-intentioned attempts.

Being Kiowa, I have given this some thought as you might imagine.


Anonymous said...