Explore the complicated ways the culture and traditions of Native Americans have affected their participation in the United States military on “The Warrior Tradition,” which airs Monday, Nov. 11 at 8 p.m. on Arizona PBS. The one-hour documentary tells the stories of Native American warriors from their own points of view – stories of service, pain, courage and fear.
“The Warrior Tradition” dispels the old duality of the noble savage and helpless victim that has dominated the cultural portrait of Native Americans for more than a century. Indian warriors have a wide mix of emotions and motives – patriotism, pride, rage, courage, practicality and spirituality, with an abiding respect for tribal, familial and national traditions.
Even the numbers tell a story. During World War I, not all Native Americans were even citizens of the United States and couldn’t be drafted, yet more than 12,000 Indian men volunteered. Even in Vietnam, 90% of the 42,000 Native people who served were volunteers.
More than a dozen Native American veterans appear in the film, having served in Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and Army National Guard. They each have their own reasons for having served and for how the warrior tradition played a role in their lives. Among those who share their stories are veterans of wars and conflicts ranging from World War II to ongoing deployments in the Middle East. They are members of tribes from all over the United States, including the Comanche and Apache Tribes of Oklahoma, the Mississippi Choctaw, Navajo Nation and the Menominee, among many others.