By Roy Cook 

A historic moment in San Diego municipal pride and military tradition took place. This, November 6, 2004, is another picture perfect San Diego, bright, sunny, Indian summer day. The air is crisp and clean. Once again the canyons of the park know as Balboa resounded with the traditional songs of the local Kumeyaay people. This historic park locations name would be better served by the appropriate name of: Hatam Park instead of ‘Balboa’ Park: Kumeyaay Way instead of ‘Presidents’ Way and Park Blvd. This location, within close proximity of a former Kumeyaay Village site under the leadership of Jose M. Hatam, is a comfortable and traditional place to meet.

All Tribes, Bands, Reservations, Veterans’ organizations and families of veterans enjoyed The Indian Warrior Tradition in the U.S. Armed Forces presentation. This event was held in the Veterans Museum & Memorial Center (VMMC) 2115 Park Boulevard San Diego, CA 92101. The VMMC serves as a major hub for activities for many of the veterans' organizations of San Diego County. This commodious former chapel and its grounds provide space and amenities in support of: the veteran, education, business and active-duty military elements of the San Diego community. However, this particular occasion is special because this is the first time a show has been mounted with a focus on Native American Warriors of U. S. Military. The opening reception and ribbon cutting at the Veterans Museum-Memorial Center was held November 6, 2004. Speakers and Native American ceremony began promptly at one. People, Veterans and Tribal people continued to arrive until all the seats were filled and people stood along both sides of the main hall.

This November 6, 2004 event is RSVP. Open to the public on November 8, 2004. this day the event seating, presentations and refreshments were free and were held inside the VMMC main hall.

This author was appointed to be the Emcee by local Tribal people. As such I thought I would get there early to see how the many stories I have researched and written up were being presented. Well, surprises to me there were many very early visitors there to greet me and ask questions. It is very encouraging to see such a response. It got better from that point on. Oh don’t get me wrong everything is not perfect but all members of the Warrior display committee came through and the staff of the VMMC was most supportive and sensitive to our requests.

Who was there and what happened? Here is a quick breakdown of the schedule of events and associated views of the presentation: Emcee, Roy Cook: Professor of Fine Arts, Mesa College and President: of American Indian Warriors Association (AIWA) introduced Rear Admiral Rod Melendez, Executive Director of VMMC.
Rod began with a warm welcome to the VMMC and recognition of the Warriors display sponsors. This is followed by an American Indian Honor Guard and posting of the colors by the American Indian Warriors Association. Patriotic recognition of our Tribal Warriors continued with the Kiowa Flag Song and Omaha Veterans Song by the Volcan Mountain Singers.

Ron Christman, Ipai-Tipai, Spiritual leader presented the Traditional Native American Blessing in Tipai and English. Ron leading Traditional CA Tukuk-Bird songs promptly follow this blessing. These timeless songs were sung by three generations of the Christman family. They all reside on the Viejas Reservation. Among the accompanying dancers were: Virginia Christman, Viejas Councilperson, Carmen Lucas, Joyce Van Dyke, Sylvia Sherbert and Vickie Gambala, S.D. City Indian Education Program.

Abraham Shragge, Ph.D. VMMC Curator presented a brief overview of the project & historical context and recognized some of the UCSD interns that assisted on the project.

Next our Honored Dignitaries are called to the podium: Gary Rossio Director Veterans Administration Medical Center at La Jolla. We also heard from respected elder and USMC Veteran: Carmen Lucas: Kwaimii spokesperson from Mt. Laguna Lucas ranch.


Our invited national treasures and USMC secret weapon in WWII was the Dine’ Code-talker. Respected and Honored, Dine’ Samuel Holiday and Dine’ Code-talker: Joe Morris both kept the audience on the edge of their seats and fascinated in the classified top secret role they performed in winning that war in the Pacific.

Joe Luna, Co-Chair, Institute of American Indian Life recognized: SDG&E-Sempra Energy, Viejas Casino, San Diego City Schools and the Santa Ysabel Band for the financial support to the Warriors exhibit.

Next all attention was turned to the Indian Warriors Tribute exhibit and Ribbon cutting ceremony by: Ron Christman, Rod Melendez and Gary Rossio.


This is followed by an invitation to view the special Indian Warriors exhibit and an announcement by the Emcee of refreshments laid on and available in the side hall. All enjoyed the generous bounty and the special occasion cakes.

We didn’t get all the stories and representations completed for this showing but we intend to add to the current display and will schedule another opening and reception in the near future. We hope to see you, your friends and your family at the next opening.

Thank you, Aho, Mehan.

Hennrietta Edwards, Naureen Reed, Nancy Nagle, Ron Christman, Chairman Johnny Hernandez, Bernice Pico. (All Santa Ysabel Tribal Members)