Jodi Rave: Powwows pay tribute to veterans

"Gilbert Towner rested under the shade of a tree while a cool ocean breeze rustled a field of 500 U.S. flags at the Confederated Tribes of the Grande Ronde Veterans Powwow.

The 78-year-old Marine, who lives in Lapwai, Idaho, served as the head man dancer at this summer's powwow on the Grand Ronde Reservation. “I'm not doing too good a job,” he said. “It's too hard on me. My legs are all shot up.”

The Tututni elder's legs may be ravaged by war, but his memory stands quick and readily recalls small details of big moments during time served in the Korean War. Dates, times, places, names remain etched from days when a bullet exited the back of his head and a mortar round broke both legs at the knees.

Towner and more than 300 military servicemen and women were honored during an extraordinary tribute to veterans. The honoring was done up in the confederated style of the Chasta, Kalapuya, Molalla, Rogue River and Umpqua tribes during their annual veterans celebration this month in Grande Ronde.

The powwow was a reminder that if you're in Indian Country, it doesn't have to be Veterans Day to celebrate a war hero and those who fill the ranks of the U.S. armed forces.

As the summer months roll by, the powwow season bustles with dancers. And powwows become a common venue to find veterans called front-and-center for recognition. Even then, the Grande Ronde Veterans Powwow organizers manage to go above and beyond.

Their efforts weren't lost on the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force and Coast Guard service members of all races who arrived in full force at the powwow arena. I had the chance to visit with many of them, ranging from elders and leather-clad Harley riders to representatives from the Department of Veterans Affairs."

Get the Story:
Powwows give true tributes to Native veterans (The Missoulian 7/30)

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