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I. The Military and the People OGICHIDAA Ogichidaa is an Ojibwe word that loosely translates as ‘warrior,’ but the essence of the word is much deeper and more nuanced than the English. The word is perhaps better translated in the plural as Ogichidaag, which means ‘those who defend the people.’ Ogichidaa or Akicita is also a word shared between the Anishinaabeg and the Lakota, our “most honored enemies.” The great Lakota Chief and Holy Man Sitting Bull described the meaning of a warrior by pointing to the inherent responsibilities such a position held: For us, warriors are not what you think of as warriors. The warrior is not someone who fights, because no one has the right to take another’s life. The warrior, for us, is one who sacrifices himself for the good of others. His task is to take care of the elderly, the defenseless, those who cannot provide for themselves and above all, the children, the future of humanity. Sitting Bull’s definition stands in stark contrast to the stereotypes of Indian warriors as bloodthirsty killers, so prominent in American mythology. That is not to say that tribes did not engage in warfare. There are critical differences , however, between a war fought to defend the people and the land, and a war fought to create or sustain an empire, to impose colonial rule on an unwilling population. That is part of the ironic dichotomy in which we as Indigenous peoples find ourselves today. There is also a critical difference between warfare designed to kill en masse, and warfare designed to keep enemies at bay, as was the ancient custom of tribes. The greatest honor a warrior could achieve was to “count coup” on an enemy—touching his enemy without inflicting any bodily harm. Such an act was a demonstration of bravery and skill as opposed to the demonstrations of immense force that are intrinsic to America’s military prowess. Winona LaDuke 4 The warriors of centuries past defended our peoples from other tribes and from the European colonizers. Our warriors worked in consultation with our spiritual leaders, Clan Mothers sat in council to seek guidance in order to ensure engaging in warfare was essential to our survival. Many of our Native communities have instructions on how to live a life of peace. The Haudenosaune Great Law of Peace is one of the most notable examples of how our nations organized our societies to ensure peace was possible. The Haudenosaune tell of The Peacemaker, a messenger who came to the people and delivered a set of principles, or laws, for them to follow: The Peacemaker came to the people with a message that human beings should cease abusing one another. He stated that humans are capable of reason, that through the power of reason all men desire peace, and that it is necessary that people organize to ensure that peace will be possible among the people who walk about on the Earth. That was the original word about laws—laws were originally made to prevent the abuse of humans by other humans.4 These lessons should not be forgotten. The Peacemaker by John Fadden The Militarization of Indian Country 5 NATIVE MILITARY SOCIETIES Since time immemorial and to the present day, Indigenous peoples have created and maintained military or warrior societies to protect our land, people, traditions and ways of life. These responsibilities were vital to the success and the survival of the tribe or nation and thus warrior society members were highly regarded, esteemed and often attained heroic status. Membership in these societies was traditionally voluntary, and admission was usually earned through some accomplishment resulting in an invitation from existing members. With the acceptance of a member into the society, songs, dances and traditional knowledge and responsibilities were passed on from elders in the society to the new initiate. Some of the better-known traditional military societies include the Cheyenne Fox Warriors or Kit Fox Society, and the Lakota Dog Warriors or Dog Soldiers, as they were more commonly known. Tribes often had multiple warrior societies, each with their unique traditions , songs and ceremonies. The Mandan and Hidatsa were known to have ten military societies, the Cheyenne and Kiowa had six societies and members of the Blackfoot Confederacy had seven military societies.5 Many tribal military societies keep memories alive and honor recent accomplishments through ceremonies and public events. For example, The Ton Ken Ge, or Black Leggings Society, of the Kiowa honor historic and recent military...


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