Way of the Warrior Explores the Stories of Indian Veterans

October 15, 2007

For More Information:

Patty Loew, producer, (608) 262-0654

Michael Bridgeman, publicist, (608) 265-3855

"Way of the Warrior" Explores the Stories of Indian Veterans

Way of the Warrior examines the visceral nature of war and the bravery of Native-American veterans who served during World War I, World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War, and came to grips with difficult post-war personal and societal conditions.

The one-hour documentary will air at 8 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 5 on Wisconsin Public Television (WPT). WMVS-TV in Milwaukee will air the program Thursday, Nov. 1 at 9 p.m.

Accomplished through first-hand interviews, and accounts from comrades and loved ones, the stories are told against the backdrop of positive and negative themes familiar to Native Americans –– the warrior ethic, prejudice, forced assimilation, poverty, cultural pride, and redemptive acts and healing.

The one-hour program honors the endurance and sacrifice of individuals such as Mitchell Red Cloud (Ho-Chunk), a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient; Ira Hayes (Pima), one of the flag-raisers on Iwo Jima; Phil Coon (Creek), a Bataan Death March survivor; and John Yahola (Creek), a member of the Red Stick Warrior Society. Their stories are examined through the prism of what means to be "ogichidaa," one who protects, and follows the way of the warrior.

The gripping and horrifying nature of war is brought home through dramatic historical footage, period photographs and sound effects. These are laid next to photos of veterans in more comfortable settings, with family and friends stateside and away from combat creating a portrait of not just the warrior, but also the paradox of a warrior's motivations.

Producer Patty Loew said she always had an interest in learning about why her grandfather, an Ojibwe from Wisconsin, volunteered to fight in World War I when he was not a United States citizen.

That was a central question for many of the veterans she interviewed or researched for this project. Some said they fought because of clan obligations. Others were driven by patriotism to the United States. Still others said it was a way to prove themselves as warriors and keep tribal traditions alive.

The documentary explores what it was like to be an Indian soldier, noting that Native Americans often were singled out for the most dangerous assignments because of the ascribed stereotypes of possessing an innate sense of direction or superior hearing and eyesight. Because of these assignments, Native Americans often suffered higher injury and casualty rates. One example was the Red Arrow Division of World War I that held a high proportion of Native soldiers. It lost nearly 60 percent of its force.

Way of the Warrior also looks at the experiences of women who served on the home front during World War II. When the war ended, returning white soldiers displaced those women -- and Native-American men.

The war's end brought many changes, says Arizona State University’s Prof. Donald Fixico, a Seminole-Creek. Change occurred in technologies, national leadership and the geography of the world. "But the greatest change of all which didn’t occur was a change in attitudes. Indians were still outside of the American mainstream."

Way of the Warrior was produced by Wisconsin Public Television and presented by Native American Public Telecommunications. Funding provided in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

WPT is a service of the Educational Communications Board and University of Wisconsin-Extension.

Wisconsin Public Television is a place to grow through learning on WHA-TV/DT, Madison; WPNE-TV/DT, Green Bay; WHRM-TV/DT, Wausau; WLEF-TV/DT, Park Falls; WHLA-TV/DT, La Crosse; and WHWC-TV/DT, Menomonie-Eau Claire.

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