A warrior tradition, honoring veterans the native way

MADISON, Wis. — Madison College helped honor local veterans Thursday with a ceremony led by the school’s Native American Student Association.

The ceremony was about recognizing veterans in a way that built on a long tradition of honoring warriors and showcased native culture. 

Commander of the American Legion Post 556 and member of the Ho-Chunk nation Joseph White Eagle said he grew up around strong military servicemen who he wanted to be just like.

“You want to be a warrior at that young age,” he said. “Seeing my dads and my uncles, the pow wows–what they were talking about was to defend your freedoms and our way of life so you know so as a young man I wanted to do that.”

White Eagle is just one of many Natives who have served in the Nation’s armed forces.

“A lot of people don’t know this but native people actually enlist the most per capita out of any other racial group,” said Madison College Community Engagement Director Nicole Soulier. “Despite this very complicated history that native people have with the U.S government they’re still very committed to protecting our communities and protecting this land.”

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2019 there were more than 140 thousand native military service members.

White Eagle said events like Thursday’s ceremony help preserve the native way of life for the next generation.

“You wanna understand the past, where you came from, what has taken place,” he explained. “If you understand that then you can move forward into the future.”