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Native American Veteran Documentary Project Receives Major Grant

A PBS documentary about Native American veterans is one step closer to your television screen, thanks to a $75,000 production grant to a University of Wisconsin-Madison communications professor and filmmaker from Native American Public Telecommunications.

“This documentary examines 20th century Indian history through the prism of Native American veterans,” explains Patty Loew, a professor of life sciences communication in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences and a producer for Wisconsin Public Television. “This grant will help us begin production of the project, which we hope will air nationally on PBS around Veterans Day 2006.”

Tentatively titled “Way of the Warrior,” the documentary will tell individual stories of native soldiers that speak to larger historical themes, Loew says. “We will use archival film footage and photographs, original video, and interviews with veterans and scholars to tell the stories of Native soldiers in the major wars of the 20th centuries.”

The featured Native veterans will include Lori Piestewa, the first U.S. woman soldier killed in combat in Iraq, the Choctaw”Code Talkers” of World War I, and Mitchell Red Cloud, who sacrificed his life to save his comrades during the Korean War.

Loew notes that as many as 17,000 American Indians enlisted in the military during World War I, taking an oath to defend a Constitution that did not offer them the benefits of U.S. citizenship. And historically, Native men and women have volunteered to fight in U.S. military actions at a rate three times higher than non-Indians, relative to their numbers in the general population.

“Given the historic mistreatment of American Indians by the United States government, the enthusiasm Native Americans have for U.S. military service is a bewildering irony to many,” she says.