Memorial Day 2004: Lori Piestewa Plaque Dedication

By Roy Cook

Native American Veterans and Elders attended the Memorial Day dedication of a plaque in honor of Lori Piestewa on Mt. Soledad May 31, 2004. The Barona Band of Mission Indians and the Barona Museum and Cultural center sponsored this memorial dedicated to: Lori Piestewa, Hopi Warrior, fallen in battle in Iraq while serving with the U. S Army. The Barona tribe also sponsored another plaque in honor of all Barona Tribal members, including six Purple Heart recipients, who have served in the Military for the defense of this land.

Clifford La Chappa, Barona Tribal Chairperson,  spoke at the memorial. Ron Chrisman, Kumeyaay Bird singer and also combat veteran of the U. S. Army Vietnam era, sang special songs in her memory. The family of Lori Piestewa was in attendance.
The San Diego American Indian Warriors Association (AIWA) was also present in Color Guard regalia for the dedication. USMC Native American veterans: Luis and John Rojelio, Chiricahua,  were in Gourd dance regalia. Also attending is Manuel Pacheco, WW II, Korea and Vietnam era paratrooper with two combat jumps.

 "Memorial Day 2004 in San Diego was like none other," said Dr. Eleanora I. Robbins. "This day was dedicated to women in the service."  Lori Piestewa (Hopi), the first Native American to give her life in service to the armed forces of the United States, was honored.  Ron Christman, Kumeyaay, led the Bird singers.  Lori's mother talked about her love for all who have served.  Clifford LaChappa, Barona Tribal Chairperson, shared his respect for Lori and all people who have been in military service.  Other speakers included San Diego Mayor Dick Murphy, Rear Admiral Frances Shea-Buckley (US Navy), and Ship Commander Ann Phillips (US Marine Corps). 
We will never forget the sacrifices and the love, as so beautifully spoken by these strong voices.

Further, Wayne Taylor, chairman of the Hopi Tribe said. "When a Hopi is deceased, she comes back to the home mesas," said Wayne Taylor, the tribal chairman, as snowflakes coated his shoulders on a special Saturday afternoon. "The spirit returns to the community and the family in the form of moisture. And this is Lori coming back."

Through generations of intermarriage, the Piestewa family represents several of those cultures. The late soldier was a Hopi with some Navajo heritage, the granddaughter of a Hispanic immigrant and a practicing Roman Catholic. Her 4-year-old son Brandon and her 3-year-old daughter Carla were baptized at St. Jude's Roman Catholic Church in Flagstaff, AZ. The children presently live with their grandparents in Tuba City, AZ.

Roy Cook: writer, curator,  Opata/Osage-Mazopioye Wichasha