Levi Rickert, editor-in-chief in Native Condition. Discussion »
The images of the four flag-draped coffins being carried off the US government plane at Andrews Air Force Base near the nation's capital city made me think about how united we are as Americans.
President Obama and Secretary Clinton at the Transfer of Remains Ceremony
Here were four bodies of diplomats who readily served the United States in Libya where the new democratic state is still evolving and subsequently fragile. In the midst of a tumultuous region of the world, the four died while serving our nation.
First reports out of Libya indicated the four Americans were attacked because a militant group opposed an anti-Muslim film that depicted was shown over the internet. Ten Libyans who fought to protect the US Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, also died.
Yesterday was a perfect September day in Maryland as US Marines carried the four coffins down the ramp of the government plane. The red, white and blue flags draped over coffins concealed the identities of the victims. They were simply Americans who were brought home in the worst possible way.
President Barack Obama was there to welcome the slain diplomats back to American soil where they will be laid to rest in the coming days. He was there to console the families of the four American heroes who died too young.
Inside of one flag draped coffins was the remains of Ambassador John Christopher Stevens. Ambassador Stevens was a highly accomplished and educated diplomat who spoke English, French and Arabic fluently.
On Wednesday morning President Obama reflected on the contributions made by Stevens on the White House lawn in Washington, DC:
At the height of the Libyan revolution, Chris led our diplomatic post in Benghazi. With characteristic skill, courage, and resolve, he built partnerships with Libyan revolutionaries, and helped them as they planned to build a new Libya. When the Qaddafi regime came to an end, Chris was there to serve as our ambassador to the new Libya, and he worked tirelessly to support this young democracy, and I think both Secretary Clinton and I relied deeply on his knowledge of the situation on the ground there.
That same day Chinook Tribal Chairman Ray Gardner in Washington state asked his Tribe and friends of the Chinook Tribe to pray for Stevens' family because
“Chris, along with his family, are Chinook members.”
Indian country learned Ambassador Stevens was an American Indian.
Yesterday, he was an American. Just as Pima tribal citizen Ira Hayes was an American when he raised the flag on Iwo Jima during World War II, Ambassador Stevens was an American. Ira Hayes is immortalized in the Iwo Jima Memorial near the Pentagon. Somehow his American Indianness gets forgotten in the Memorial. He is simply an American.
Yesterday, Ambassador Stevens' American Indianness was obscured by the American flag, which is fine. He shared a dual status. American Indians understand this.
The point is it is up to all us to tell our children about the great contributions American Indians have made and continue to make on behalf of the United States of America. Even with all of difficulties we have as American Indians in seeking justice for broken treaties, American Indians, the great warriors we are, continue to serve our nation.
Ambassador Stevens was part of a lineage of the
first Americans, who served this nation well.
We honor his service to the United States of America.
posted September 15, 2012 6:00 am edt