A tradition of Bravery
Women have often achieved great fame as warriors (ogichidaa).
Sometimes, when a man went to war, his wife would insist on accompanying him, and sometimes she was lucky enough to succeed in obtaining a war honor by killing an enemy or another act of valor, in which case she received a customary feather for her efforts. In most cases the ogichidaa woman didn’t wear her feather, but instead designating one of her male relatives, usually a son or grandson, to wear it for her. Nonetheless, she was thereafter called by the title ogichidaakwe.
An ogichidaakwe was entitled to go to the ogichidaag lodge at any time when the warriors were dancing, and to join them. When the warriors reenacted their valorous deeds, and counted their coups, she was entitled to do the same, and her narration was received with the same respect as any other ogichidaa.
One ogichidaakwe from Long Plain obtained her title by joining with the warriors when they went to battle. On one occasion when a Sioux was shot from his horse, she ran to count coup upon him, finally she killed the Dakota with her turnip digging-stick. The men in the war party then scalped the Dakota, and she painted her face with his blood.
Another renowned ogichidaakwe was out on the plains digging turnips when the group she was with were attacked by Sioux. The women hastily dug a rifle pit to conceal the party. As the battle was waged, one brave woman ventured forth and dragged the men who were wounded to safety. The Sioux were firing at her each time that she did this, but under fire she rescued each of the wounded men. In this manner she became an ogichidaakwe.
This tradition of women soldiers has continued until today.
Fourteen Native American women served as members of the Army Nurse Corps during World War I, two of them overseas. Nearly 800 Native American women served in the military during World War II. Countless Native women served in Vietnam, and increasing numbers of Native American women entered the military in the 1970s and 1980s. Even during the past decades, Native women have shown bravery as soldiers.
Private Lori Ann Piestewa, was not only the first woman in the U.S. military to lose her life in the Iraq War, she was also the first Native American woman to die in combat with the United States Armed Forces. Piestewa was a Native American of Hopi descent with Mexican-American heritage. Her native name was White Bear Girl.