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Native veterans honored at Phoenix Heard Museum's national memorial

By Gabriel Pietrorazio
Published: Monday, November 13, 2023 - 3:09pm
Updated: Tuesday, November 14, 2023 - 9:14am

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Coverage of tribal natural resources is supported in part by Catena Foundation

Cha’Bii’Tu Apache Crown Dancers perform an honor dance, blessing veterans at the American Indian Veterans National Memorial.
Gabriel Pietrorazio/KJZZ
Cha’Bii’Tu Apache Crown Dancers perform an honor dance, blessing veterans at the American Indian Veterans National Memorial on Nov. 11, 2023.

The 11th annual American Indian Veteran Sunset Tribute at the Heard Museum on Saturday was a night brimming with uniquely Native sounds emanating from downtown Phoenix.

Thundering drums. Jingling bells. Clanking wood. Even chirping by the Cha’Bii’Tu Apache Crown Dance Group. They blessed veterans in attendance through a performance of their honor dance while weaving through the crowd after traveling from the Apache town of McNary to the American Indian Veterans National Memorial over the weekend.

Prisicilla “Percy” Piestewa is the mother of Lori Ann Piestwa — a Hopi — and the first Indigenous female soldier killed in action on foreign soil. The U.S. Army specialist died during her deployment with the 507th Maintenance Company to Iraq two decades ago.

“We think that when they come home from war, it’s over,” said Piestewa, “but don’t give up on them. Please, let them know you are proud of them and that you love them.”

Congressman Ruben Gallego also served in Iraq after enlisting in the U.S. Marine Corps. An infantryman with Lima Company under the 3rd Battalion, he had been deployed to the Middle East two years after Piestewa died.

On Saturday, he helped distribute tokens of service to veterans, many of whom were Native Americans.

“They actually taught me so much. Don’t forget them. Don’t forget their sacrifice,” said Gallego, emphasizing the legacy of Piestewa. “She is a great mentor for many of us, that we grew up hearing those stories.”