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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


April 19, 2003 - Issue 85


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5,000 Attend Piestewa Memorial

by Mark Shaffer and Pat Flannery of the Arizona Republic

Lori PiestewaTUBA CITY - As the Aztec Dancers of Phoenix blew mournfully into their wind instruments and incense wafted into the air, the crowd of 5,000 at the memorial service drew tearfully silent.

Their native daughter, Army Pfc. Lori Piestewa, was finally home, buried only hours earlier in private services across U.S. 160 in the traditional Hopi community of Moenkopi. It was a day short of three weeks of heart-wrenching sorrow since Piestewa became what is believed to be the first Native American woman in the military killed in combat on foreign soil, after her unit was ambushed in southern Iraq.

Gov. Janet Napolitano told the huge crowd at Warrior Pavilion that to Tuba City, where Piestewa lived and attended high school and church, she was a "fiery young woman," to the Hopi Tribe "one of their own," to her family "a loving sister, daughter and devoted mother."

Then, Napolitano received a raucous standing ovation when she said she will petition on Monday to have Squaw Peak in Phoenix designated an Arizona landmark and have its name changed to Piestewa Peak. Napolitano said she also will petition to rename Squaw Peak Freeway as Piestewa Freeway.

Napolitano descended the flower-laden platform and hugged Piestewa's parents. She presented them with a state flag that had flown over the Capitol last week in honor of their 23-year-old daughter, a single mother of two small children.

Ever since word was delivered on March 24 that Piestewa was missing in action from her maintenance unit, she quickly rose to icon status. In addition to the effort to rename Squaw Peak, she will be featured in a women's military memorial at Arlington National Cemetery. Her death also triggered an outpouring of grief on Native American reservations around the country and Internet Web sites.

Military color guards from Indian tribes as far away as Washington state and North Dakota attended the ceremony.

Lisa Thompson, a member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in Fort Yates, N.D., said she and seven other tribal members drove 30 hours to attend the service and deliver a quilt to the Piestewa family.

"Everybody was like, 'Bring us back some newspapers.' It really affected everyone hard in our area," Thompson said.

Another person driving hundreds of miles was former San Carlos Apache Chairman Raymond Stanley. Stanley said he could especially sympathize with the family because his tribe suffered the first death from Arizona in the 1991 Gulf War: Michael Noline.

"She (Piestewa) made the ultimate sacrifice, and I salute her," Stanley said.

Tony Tsosie of Rough Rock, Ariz., a relative of Piestewa's former husband, Bill Whiterock, 24, of Tuba City, also said he and his family had driven several hours to see the service. They were busily signing large poster boards with condolences to the Piestewa family before the memorial service.

"You will be respected and not forgotten," their message said. It also offered recognition to Whiterock and his children.

Piestewa was buried at midmorning after both Catholic and traditional Hopi ceremonies.

About 200 friends and relatives attended a funeral service at St. Jude's Catholic Church in Tuba City, with the casket borne by military pallbearers.

Father Godden Menard told the congregation, "I was proud of her and what she has done, and her willingness to put her life on the line."

One of Piestewa's aunts also eulogized her, calling her an "eloquent" warrior who "went from face powder to gunpowder," Menard said.

After the church service, Piestewa's male family members accompanied the soldier's body to its final resting place in Moenkopi.

Later, at the memorial service, Piestewa's cousin, Manuel Baca Jr., read a poem as a slide show of photos from Lori's life was projected on a large screen behind him.

"Today her life on Earth his passed. But here, it starts anew."



A memorial fund has been set up for the children of PFC. Lori Piestewa at Wells Fargo Bank.


Lori Ann Piestewa Fund:
Account #: 0464633783
Donate at your local Wells Fargo Bank


Send cards & letters to:


Percy Piestewa
P.O. Box 957,
Tuba City, AZ 86045

Send flowers, other items to:

Care of the Piestewa family
Juniper Drive, No. 67,
Tuba City, AZ 86045


For more information contact:


Aggie Jenkins
Tuba City School District,
Business Office @ 928-283-1001, ext. 1010.

Tuba City, AZ Map

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Canku Ota is a copyright © 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003 of Vicki Lockard and Paul Barry.

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