United States military service is known to form bonds between servicemembers that spans lifetimes for veterans. The Sister Nations Color Guard is a group of female American Indian veterans that has taken that bond even further.
SNCG is a group of 10 American Indian warriors from various tribal nations that have formed a friendship through the combination of their Native heritage and military service, while actively presenting the colors in Native regalia for community events and at powwows alongside other fellow color guards.
For each member, the SNCG represents the shared sense of service, culture, support, friendship and respect for one another and others.
One of SNCG’s latest events was attending the 5th Annual Lori Piestewa Tribute in Phoenix, Arizona on November 11 for Veteran’s Day. During the ceremony, two color guard members, Carisa Gonzalez, Navajo, and Reba Benally, Navajo, presented Piestewa’s family with a plaque and a patch. Piestewa, the first Native American woman in history to be killed in action while serving in the U.S. military and the first female U.S. soldier to die in Iraq was posthumously inducted into the SNCG as an honorary member.
“It was an emotional feeling for Reba Benally and I. We knew that the rest of our SNCG members were waiting on some feedback on the whole tribute and were very excited for pictures to be posted and to share the experience via Facebook,” Gonzalez said in an e-mail. “As for everyone in attendance at the tribute, it was an emotional one for them as well. The Piestewa family were so loving, supportive and thankful for all we do and represent as Native women. I personally felt more humble than ever and gained more perspective as a Native woman veteran and just carrying myself in a more humble way as a Diné woman. Very thankful for all those who supported us on making this happen, especially to Jackson Harris who was behind all of this honoring Native women veterans. I thought of all those who supported us, our Native communities and our families during this whole event on Veterans Day and at the tribute.”
The plaque read, "The Sister Nations Color Guard extends its membership to a fallen sister who lived and fought for those she loved. As a sister in arms, we will dance with you always in spirit to carry on your beautiful memory."
Gonzalez and Benally also asked the Piestewa family for its blessing to affix the same patch the SNCG gave the family on the color guard attire in honor of their late daughter.
“As humble Native women, we were honored to receive the blessing from the Piestewa family on inducting Lori into our group as an Honorary Member. We were all emotionally moved by this induction and having the Piestewa family's support,” Gonzalez said.
The idea to honor the late Piestewa came from SNCG member Angel Young, Standing Rock, according to Gonzalez. The patch idea was an extension of Young’s idea, and the words on the plaque came from member Toni Eaglefeathers, Northern Cheyenne. “All in all, it was a quick decision made by us all since we thought that it would be a blessing,” Gonzalez said. “So, we proceeded to communicate our intent with the Piestewa family in which we got their support.”
Remaining SNCG members are: Glenda Littlebird, Northern Cheyenne/Northern Arapaho; Cindy Littlefeather, Navajo; Sunshine Woodenlegs, Northern Cheyenne; Micah Rae Highwalking, Northern Cheyenne; Shawna Dahl, Anishinabe Ojibwe; Monica White Weeks, Navajo.