For three years, Clevenger has documented Native American war veterans primarily among the Navajo, Osage, Pueblo and Apache tribes. His new book, America’s First Warriors: Native Americans and Iraq, explores the shared experiences of today’s Native American troops through the lens of the warrior tradition.
It doesn’t necessarily condemn it. This is an examination of the warrior culture. And not that [Native Americans] are pro-war by any means, they’re more involved with protecting their families, their people, and their countries now. One of the questions people ask is, why should these Native Americans fight for the United States? Look at all the oppression they’ve suffered, the genocide. And I got several answers from people. One veteran of active army as well as national guard told me that was so far in the past that it didn’t matter, he was a professional. Then another man told me he didn’t feel like the native had been defeated because the culture survives today. Others would give me answers such as, “I don’t feel like I’m fighting for the government. I’m fighting for my country and my people, my way of life.” Seems like everybody had their own answer.
Below: "Lieutenant Bill Cody Ayon (Southern Cheyenne)." (Steven Clevenger)