Two Friends - Piestewa and Lynch - One Year Later
Both women were taken prisoner. Piestewa later died of injuries suffered in the crash. She was the first female Native American soldier to be killed in combat.
On the anniversary of Piestewa’s death some 200 family members and friends marked her demise with two memorial services. The first at 6:30 a.m., at the foot of Piestewam peak named in her honor, was attended by the Piestewa family, her two children and ex-husband, Bill Whiterock of Tuba City. A candlelight ceremony was held at 5:30 p.m. at Patriot’s Square in Phoenix.
Hopi and Navajo trial leaders spoke at the ceremonies. Eleven members of the Tuba City High School’s JROTC female color guard traveled from Piestewa’s home town in northern Arizona to take part in the ceremony. The Phoenix Oyate Singers drummed and sang. Piestewa’s father, Terry, offered a prayer in Hopi. Statements were read from Lynch and Shoshona Johnson, POWs and Piestewa’s comrades. The event ended with a Catholic Mass and mariachi music. The rituals represented her faith, Indian and Latino background.
“Lori died for everyone,” said event organizer Ernest Martinez. A distant relative and friend of the Piestewa family said “This event has brought people from all different backgrounds to remember her and honor her sacrifice”
Unfortunately, Piestewa’s memory is still clouded in controversy as the dispute continues to swirl around the Phoenix area concerning the renaming of Squaw peak to Piestewa Peak by Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano a month after Piestewa’s death.
Meanwhile, across the county, Jessica Lynch spent the anniversary in relative peace and quiet. Lynch is now “yesterday’s news. She received national exposure when the media invaded her home town of Palestine, West Virginia following her dramatic rescue by U.S. military from the Iraqi hospital where she and Piestewa had been taken after their capture. For a while, Lynch was embraced by the Bush administration as a national heroine. A made for TV film of her war-time experiences and rescue was shown in November ’03 about the same time her authorized biography was released on Veteran’s Day.
Life on Lynch’s home turf has returned to its former pace. The media are gone but according to Wirt County Assessor, Debbie Hensen,”We’ve all been touched by the war, the continuing loss of life and the miracle that is Jessica, We think about things differently.”
For Lynch, now 20 years of age, life is slowly returning to normal or as normal as it ever will be. She still undergoes two hours of therapy sessions five days a week and her wheel chair is now only for travel as she’s down to leaning on one crutch.
Henson states, “Jessica gets out and about, now, doing the stuff 20 years olds do – hanging out with friends, talking on the phone and watching TV.”
Incidentally, cable television was brought to the Paradise and Wirt County residents when the media swarmed into town as Jessica Lynch became a national celebrity.
The anniversary, in Phoenix, took on political overtones. In the time frame between the two memorial gatherings, rally organizers, tribal leaders and family members made an emotional plea at the state Capitol to stop legislation they fear would restore Piestewa Peak back to its original name, Squaw Peak.
Legislators are, now, considering two measures aimed at overhauling the Arizona Geographic and Historic Names Board that changed the name of the Peak last spring at Democratic Governor Napolitano’s request. House Bill 2036, awaiting senate approval, would ask voters to hand over control of the Board to the Legislature rather than have the board members appointed by the governor. House Bill 2007 would do the same thing without requiring voter approval.
Phil Hanson, a Republican from Peoria, AZ sponsor of the measures, said he doesn’t want to rename Piestewa Peak. He wants to wrest control of the naming board from the governor because Hanson maintains Napolitano and her staff pressured board members during the renaming process.
Tribal leaders are skeptical of Hanson’s motives because he fought off amendments that would prevent a new board from revisiting the Piestewa naming.
The Senate Government Committee was supposed to hear House Concurrent Resolution 2036 this week but Hanson has asked for a delay because some of the key supporters can’t attend the hearing, and the controversy continues.
This article has been edited from pages of the March 22nd and 24th editions The Arizona Republic – bylined, Robbie Sherwood, Betty Reid and Bob Winters (Huntington W. Va.) Herald Dispatch.
Native Unity - A place for Native American Peoples to solidify their tribes to make a positive impact on the cultural, social, economic and political fabric of American society and a place for non-Natives to better understand the ways of the American Indian.
FLIGHT OF THE EAGLE, INC.
Fort Collins, Colorado
"Bridging Cultures Through Community Service"
"Honoring Native American Heros"