BISMARCK, N.D. — One hundred years after World War I, a powwow in North Dakota will honor Native Americans who served in the conflict before they were even considered U.S. citizens.
They’ll being remembered at the 48th annual International Powwow next weekend at United Tribes Technical College in Bismarck. Several hundred family members and descendants of World War I Native servicemen are expected to participate in the ceremony on Sunday, Sept. 10, the Bismarck Tribune reported.
The grand entry will feature honor guards and drum groups from the five governing tribes of the college: the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation; Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate; the Spirit Lake Sioux; the Standing Rock Sioux; and the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa.
“They’ll sing songs in their language, World War I victory songs, that represent some of the deeds that their relatives have done,” said Leander “Russ” McDonald, president of the college.
Names will be read of more than 355 veterans from the five tribes who served in World War I, including Sgt. John W. Smith from the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation. Before he left he wrote a note on a picture of himself that said, “Forget me not.”
Native Americans didn’t become U.S. citizens until 1924.
“I don’t think the fact that they weren’t citizens was really relevant to them at the time,” said Marilyn Hudson, a relative of Smith and longtime director of the Three Affiliated Tribes Museum. “There’s always been the desire to protect and serve the country where you live.”
Smith was the first Hidatsa to enlist in the 2nd North Dakota National Guard Regiment, which was formed in Bismarck in the summer of 1917, according to “Warriors in Khaki” by Michael and Ann Knudson, who researched Native American World War I soldiers from North Dakota.
After the war, Smith wrote about his close calls, including a shell that exploded two feet away from him, killing two other men.
“I am proud that I was the first to enlist and spent more days in the trenches than the rest of the boys from this Reservation,” wrote Smith, who was recognized for gallantry in action.
An estimated 10,000 Native Americans served in the Army during World War I and 2,000 served in the Navy.
“We served when we weren’t even recognized citizens of the United States,” said North Dakota Indian Affairs Commissioner Scott Davis. “That’s huge. That says a lot about my people and how they feel about this country.”
Information from: Bismarck Tribune, http://www.bismarcktribune.com