By Bruce Dammeier, Pierce County Executive.
The 2002 movie “Windtalkers,” starring Nicolas Cage and Adam Beach, highlighted the unique contributions made by Navajo code talkers during the Battle for Saipan in World War II. Having been to the Chief Leschi Schools Veterans Day Assembly, where every child shakes the hand of every veteran present, I am familiar with the service of local Native veterans – and how they are honored within their culture.
But I was humbled and inspired to learn that Native Americans, Alaska Natives and Hawaiian Natives have fought with the United States in every war since the Revolution – even before they were officially declared citizens in 1924!
To recognize, honor and remember that strong tribal tradition of military service, a permanent memorial was dedicated this past Veterans Day at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C.
Located on the expansive “Mall,” the National Native American Veterans Memorial is a meaningful and lasting tribute to decades of proud warriors fighting for freedom.
The video features interviews with several Native veterans, a fascinating look back at the legacy of tribal military service and a discussion with the Native designer of the memorial. I will caution that the video is 18 minutes long, but it is well worth every minute to understand, appreciate and honor the men and women who have so honorably served our county.
I’m pleased to share it with you.
It is also fitting that the memorial was commemorated in November as this is National Native American Heritage Month.
Here in the Pacific Northwest our connection to Native tribes is important and our relationships are collaborative. That’s due, in part, to the work of Sarah Colleen Sotomish, a member of the Quinault Nation, and a member of our Executive Team (note: Fawn Sharp, also from the Quinault Nation was featured in the National Native American Veterans Memorial video). She has made great strides in ensuring we engage with the local tribes and their leaders in ways that are respectful, productive and positive.
Sarah Colleen shared with me a great video on the history of the Puyallup Tribe, and while it is difficult to look back and remember the trauma their people have endured, it is important history to understand for all who live in our region. I also found many reasons to appreciate and celebrate how far we’ve come. My thanks to the Puyallup Tribe for their permission to share this with you.
Before I close, I want to take a moment to acknowledge a member of our leadership team who is retiring. Dennis Hanberg, the director of Planning and Public Works, is leaving us soon. The Council and I honored Dennis’ leadership and contributions with a Joint Resolution.
My sincere thanks to Dennis for his many years of service and I know the hundreds of PPW employees he led will continue his quest to be the Best Permitting Agency and then the Best Public Agency!
Thanks for reading,
First published on the Pierce County website.