I had the honor of emceeing the Peshawbestown Jiingtamok (Pow Wow) put on by the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians recently. Over the last 15 years I have had the privilege of emceeing different pow wows throughout the state of Michigan with many memorable moments, from bald eagles above, unseasonal weather conditions and great companionship. One part of the Jiingtamok that stands out is the respect shown for veterans.
I have been asked why Native Americans (Anishinaabek) place such emphasis to honor veterans at pow wows. Several reasons ran through my head, but what I immediately expressed was, “So that we don’t forget.” It is the ultimate honor to the proud men and women who have served both our country and our tribal nations.
At our pow wows, immediately following the Grand Entry and Flag Song, we have a veteran’s honor song and dance, and we call out all veterans from all conflicts. When the drumming begins, we ask all in attendance to stand, gentlemen to remove their hats and that no pictures be taken. No pictures are allowed so that the moment is captured only in our hearts and minds. We recognize and give respect for the commitment, sacrifices and dedication that our veterans represent and went through, both as United States citizens and for the Anishinaabek, our Indigenous rights. When we post the POW/MIA flag, we take a collective pause to remember those who have yet to return to their loving homes and community.
It is easy for us to take for granted the rights we commonly enjoy as citizens of the United States, the State of Michigan and as Tribal citizens. With respect to Tribal citizens, we all need to remember the rights we retained through the signing of treaties with the U.S. government. Our veterans are honored also for protecting rights protected through the signing of treaties and the United States Constitution. To deny a citizen a constitutional and/or treaty right is not just a fundamental breakdown of governance but also an attack on what our veterans fought so valiantly to protect and maintain for our current time and future generations.