Confederated Tribes of Colville Reservation

Soldiers before Citizens

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By Sherri Williams
News21 / Syracuse University

Headstones at Native American cemeteries tell the stories of warriors who fought for this country since its early days.

Alongside the graves of revered warriors Chief Joseph and Yellow Wolf, who battled white settlers to preserve Indian life and land, lay the lesser-known Native American soldiers who went to war to protect the United States.

Graves at the reservation cemeteries in Washington state mark some of the conflicts in which Native Americans served: WWII, Korea, Vietnam and even Grenada.

When culture & war collide

Vietnam veterans Keith "Soy" Redthunder and Jim Smith Photo by: Sherri Williams

For Jim Smith, a Native American Vietnam War veteran, fighting an adversary who resembled him was a struggle.

"They looked so much like our local people here that it was difficult for me to do my job," Smith, 63, said of the Vietnamese."These were people. They weren't just the gooks, the enemy...You could look at the kids and they could have been any of the kids here."

Smith and Keith "Soy" Redthunder, another Native American Vietnam War veteran, talked to us today about their war experiences at the veteran's office at the Confederated Tribes of Colville Reservation.

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