By Roy Cook, Emcee

A tribute to Women Warriors, Veterans and Native American tribal heritage was held in the Veterans Hospital (VAMC) area of operation Thursday November 20th, 2003, La Jolla, CA. The employees of the Native American Program (NAP) organize this annual event. Elders and Military groups, American Indian Warriors Association (AIWA) participated in this cultural celebration and tribute to our Native American Veterans and all Warriors that defend our Mother Earth.

The morning first activity was outside at the medicine wheel. The VAMC Director Garry Rossio addressed the assembled group with a welcoming statement. Jamul Village Honored Elder Jane Dumas presented a prayer in the local Kumeyaay language. Current construction was a constant reminder of the growing medical needs of our fellow warriors of all conflicts.

Moving into the VAMC facilities multi-purpose room the Chinle Navaho Gourd Society Color Guard posted the colors as the Flag song, Victory song and National Anthem filled the air with patriotism.

Host drum: Nikwaneem Singers, Cori Roberts, Perse Hooper, Kitty Luna set the theme, Honoring Women Warriors. Intertribal songs and traditional dancing commenced and offered an insight to the Native American culture. Additionally, Veterans and employees enjoyed the opportunities to be entertained and enjoy a slice of original American heritage. NAP member, Jerry Wilkerson danced in full regalia. He is dancing in recognition of the AIWA contributions to this event by the late Chet Hunt, USMC. Later in the afternoon he was joined by, twenty year retired Navy Chief, Richard Parker Van Dyke, Omaha, also in full regalia.

Further, in the afternoon, the Aztec dancers and drummers presented yet another facet of the cross-cultural heritage of the late Lori Piestewa, Hispanic. Mexican culture has touched many Native American and others lives in the greater southwest.

Also at this time the NAP members and friends shared hot coffee and fried bread with all the attendees to the event. This is a no cost, wonderful, generous, example of Native American hospitality.

The afternoon continued with songs by the host Nikwaneem Singers and visiting drums, Bearheel Singers and Red Warriors. Formal recognition of visitors and dignitaries took place with presentations by Obed Fernandez, Multicultural representative of the VAMC Director.



Steve Campbell, U. S. Army Special Forces, ret. presented Indian flute songs. As the tribute came to an end appropriate songs included a veteran's song and a memorial song for the late honored Army PFC Lori Ann Piestewa.

She was killed in combat when her support convoy, Army 507th Maintenance Company, was ambushed near Nasiriyah, Iraq.
Piestewa, 23, was the mother of two young children, and her death again raised the question of the role of women in combat.

While in Iraq, reports say when their Humvee transport broke down, the team made quick repairs and were on their way to Nasiriyah when they made a wrong turn and were ambushed.

While Lynch was injured and captured, later to be the subject of a reported daring rescue, it is unclear how Lori Piestewa died.

For American Indians, there are times when their culture runs opposite to the mainstream.

For the Piestewa family, it was bringing Lori home to her final resting place. The Hopi bury the dead immediately after their death - sometimes the same day. Lori's body wasn't discovered until 12 days after she was killed. The Army kept her remains for an autopsy and the investigation. But when a relative was sent to escort Lori's body home, they were surprised when the body was released almost immediately.

Carla is Lori's 3-year-old daughter. She said her mother came to her after her death and told her young daughter she wasn't coming home. In the visitation, Carla apparently was told about the ambush. Carla's question is why did "they" shot her mother.

Carla and her brother, Brandon, 4, both Hopi-Navajo have lived with their Hopi grandparents, Terry and Percy, since Lori enlisted in the United States Army.

The state of Arizona renamed a state capital area mountain peak and a freeway to honor Piestewa. Squaw Peak in north-central Phoenix will be renamed Piestewa Peak.