Tuesday, 23 July 2024

Native American vets will be honored at May 27 event

Nelson Hopper and his wife, Earlene. He'll offer a prayer to open the ceremony and dinner to honor local native veterans this Tuesday. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.


LAKE COUNTY – A special event to honor the contributions of local tribal members in the armed forces will take place this week.

The California Tribal TANF Partnership will sponsor a Lake County Native American Veterans Ceremony and Dinner on Tuesday, May 27, from 4 p.m. to 7.m. at the Robinson Rancheria Resort and Casino Conference Center.

A group of local native veterans organized the gathering, which will include a spiritual ceremony, which they say is needed to honor and remember native “warrior” veterans who fought in World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm, and who are currently in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Offering the event's opening prayer will be Nelson Hopper. At age 91, the Big Valley Rancheria elder is one of Lake County's oldest native veterans, and one of the last speakers of his tribe's language.

Hopper served in the U.S. Army during World War II, where he was wounded during the Battle of the Bulge. A highly decorated soldier, Hopper is a member of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2015.

He will be joined at the ceremony by other Pomo veterans who served in different conflicts, including Vietnam.

The presence of Native Americans in the U.S. military ranks has a long tradition.

James P. Collins of the National Archives and Records Administration wrote in a 2007 article that a unit of Delaware Indians was found among Revolutionary War service records. In addition, Collins reported that more than 1,000 Native Americans served during the War of 1812, and native units also appeared during the Mexican War of 1846 to 1848.

During World War I, an estimated 12,000 native soldiers enlisted, according to “Way of the Warrior,” A Public Broadcasting Documentary.

The Department of Defense reported that 44,500 Native Americans – more than 10 percent of the native population at the time – served in World War II.

Their valor and contributions to the war effort caused Maj. Lee Gilstrop to declare, “The Indian is the best damn soldier in the Army,” according to a Department of Defense history.

Estimates from military historians put as many as 15,000 natives serving during the Korean War, and numbers range widely – from 40,000 to 80,000 – for tribal members in Vietnam. Today, Native American soldiers are serving in the Iraq War as well as in Afghanistan.

The ceremony and dinner is limited and free to Native American veterans and their guest only.

For more information, contact Cecilia Dawson at 274-2313.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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