November 15, 2010

Photographing America's First Warriors

Steven Clevenger on Photographing Native American VeteransIn many Native American cultures, says photojournalist Steven Clevenger, the warrior is held in the highest esteem by his or her community. Children are taught to look up to the warriors who defend their families, their people and their way of life.

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.
And:Your work, at least in this book does not contain violence or destruction. What does this book say about war?

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.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Codetalkers at the Stock Exchange and DoD Showcases Native Soldiers.

Below:  "Lieutenant Bill Cody Ayon (Southern Cheyenne)." (Steven Clevenger)


Burt said...

As a native veteran myself, I can say much of the reasoning was economical, and in saying that, one does not have to be native today to share that reason.

All minorities have fought with the US Army whether it was the Irish under Custers command in the 7th Cavalry, or the African Americans penned the Buffalo Soldiers that fought Indians also.

I felt no patriotism then for America and I feel even less today, but that does not exclude my being a contributer and active member of my community.

If people in this country were really concerned with patriotism, there wouldn't be such a large percentage of homeless and wounded soldiers living in squalor, unfortunately, war for Americans has been deduced to vindictive and hatred for race, religion and profits for big business.

We should be more concerned with detouring dictatorships at home rather than abroad.

dmarks said...

Burt: A Native veteran? You would love it in "Birdland" click here

Burt said...

Yes, Dmarks, I served with the 227th Maint Bn in Yongsan, South Korea from 1982-83.

Are you a veteran, or are you a fortunate son, privileged enough to evade military service?

Rob said...

I was (barely) too young for Vietnam and too old for the first Gulf war. Same for DMarks, I think. Unless you count Grenada, we missed out.

But if I'd been called to serve, I would've avoided it somehow. No way would I have participated in the unnecessary and immoral wars we've fought since World War II. Count me out unless there's a clear and present danger to the US.