Veterans Day 2008: When The Eagles, Crow, Deer, Bears Went To War
This is a clip of the opening of the pow wow at The Smithsonian … you will see some of my friends who are Veterans being the honored carriers of the United States flag. The veterans are most often in the front rows of the grand entry.
Then will come the veteran’s honor dance, one of many this night… honor truly, because they carry proudly the American flag under which their own ancestors were murdered and persecuted. Even so: The American flag is given prominence over all the Tribal and State flags. The past not forgotten, but America our country in our own way now, too. Honor.
Honor dancing; you see the opening dance as people file into the dance arena; they are doing a knee-bending dip-step that covers only a tiny amount of ground at a time. This dip-step shuffles forward, almost in place, and it makes everyone’s fringes sway, makes every last feather tremble, makes every metal jingle skirt sound like the wind over mesas, makes every set of rattles worn at knees sound like hard rain. In the storm. Dancing in the storm. Honor.
You see to the lower right in the film, the antelope, the deep, the crows, the eagles, and deer dancers and the bear spirits and more, dancing … beginning to dance, loosen up, returning to their pelts. Honor. To be so fully alive and instinctual. Honor.
And the drummers, hard muscled old guys with big bellies mixed in with cut-muscled young guys who all are beating the big mother drum for all they’re worth and crying to the skies. Honor, honor to be a drummer. Honor to unleash the voice and cry to the skies. Drum as proof of being alive. Song as proof of being alive. Honor, just to be alive.
Something about all the tinkling of bells, heaviness and precision of footfalls, the dust of the ground disturbed by all the whirling…. you see the fancy dancers starting to step out, you see the shawl dancers, and finally the feather fan dancers who are not dancing for prettiness, but cleansing the spirit of the tribe with their white fans, brushing away the detritus from all the souls who gather there. Blessing dance. Honor. Care of others. All of us. Honor. No one left out. Honor.
Then throughout the night there will be dances that are only for veterans. The rest of us, friends and families will stand down while the veterans dance, some in wheelchairs, dancing. Honor, to stand while the veterans, abled and disabled, dance. While the eagles, bears, deer, while the wolves and bobcats dance.
All this under Old Glory, despite all else…and the names of the dead, those who died in battle in WWII, in Korea, in Nam, in Kuwait, in Iraq, in Afghanistan, will be called out over the squawking loud speaker. And the dancers, the veterans will dance even harder then. Honor. Alive. Honor.