Mazinaateseg!, Indigenous Renaming, and This Day in History: Two Native Americans Help Raise Flags Over Iwo Jima

Upcoming Event: Anishinabe Film Series

Come and enjoy the next installment of the Augsburg Native American Film Series as Elizabeth Day and Heid E. Erdrich host an evening of short films by Anishinabe film makers. (BTW, Mazinaateseg is Anishinabe for “It’s a movie.”)

The event is free and open to the public. It will be held Wednesday, March 9, at Sateren Auditorim on the Augsburg Campus, 715 22nd Ave South, Minneapolis. A talk with students begins at 5 p.m., followed by a reception from 6:15-6:45 p.m.

Short and animated films will start at 7 p.m.: “Advice To Myself 2: Resistance,” by Elizabeth Day and Heid E. Erdrich; “Gaa-ondinang Dakwaanowed Makwa” (How the bear got a short tail) by Elizabeth Day and Jonathan Thunder; and “The Path Without End,” by Elizabeth LaPensée.

Upcoming Event: The Case for Indigenous Renaming: Acknowledging Minnesota Genocide

On Wednesday, April 6th, Cherokee Park United Church will host a talk by Dakota elder and historian Chris Mato Nunpa, who will speak on the importance of renaming places by their original Dakota names. This event — part of Cherokee Park’s annual Genocide Awareness Month events — is free and open to the public.

Doors open at 6:30 p.m., the talk starts at 7 p.m. at Cherokee Park, 371 West Baker St., St. Paul.

Background: In 2012, both Minneapolis and St. Paul declared 2012 “The Year of the Dakota” and acknowledged that genocide had taken place at the hands of the U.S. government. Mato Nunpa worked on passing those resolutions on the 150th anniversary of the Dakota-U.S. War of 1862. During the years leading up to and following that war, the government held a mass execution of Dakota fighters, incarcerated Dakota women and children in a concentration camp at Fort Snelling, expelled Dakota from Minnesota and put bounties on Dakota lives.

The St. Paul resolution acknowledging this history mandated that the city identify, name and interpret sacred Native American sites in St. Paul and along the Mississippi River. Sadly, there does not appear to have been much follow through on that 2012 promise. According to Cherokee Park’s promotional material: “Mato Nunpa will present his views on the renaming that still must take place, from the white bluffs below Indian Mounds Park to the streets and places that still bear the names of Alexander Ramsey, Henry Sibley and John C. Calhoun, Euro-American conquerors who were guilty of genocide against the indigenous people of Minnesota.”

This Day in History 1945: Native Americans Help Hoist Two Flags Over Iwo Jima

On this day in history, Feb. 23, 1945, there were two flag raisings over Mount Suribachi in the battle for Iwo Jima, and both included Native American fighters.

Flag raising on Iwo Jima. Hayes is on the far left.
Second flag raising on Iwo Jima. Hayes is on the far left.

The first flag raising was done by a group of Marines including Louis Charles Charlo of the Bitterroot Salish Tribe of Montana, according to a 2011 article in Indian Country Today, American Indian Marine Was Part of Iwo Jima, But Kept Out of Spotlight. The group  erected a small flag and were attacked in the process. According to one witness: Charlo and his companion “coolly picked them off.” No U.S. soldiers were killed in that particular attack.

The second flag raising included Ira Hayes, a Marine and Pima Indian. They returned to the summit to replace the first flag with a larger one. Yet it was a photo of this flag raising that became the iconic image from World War II.

First flag raising over Iwo Jima. Louis Charles Charlo, from the Bitterroot Salish Tribe holds the rifle.
First flag raising over Iwo Jima. Louis Charles Charlo, from the Bitterroot Salish Tribe holds the rifle.

Hayes gained celebrity during his life. He portrayed himself in the 1949 movie: Sands of Iwo Jima, according to Wikipedia. The 1961 movie The Outsider told Hayes’ life story. (Shockingly, he was not portrayed by a Native American, but by Tony Curtis, the son of Slovakian and Hungarian parents.) The movie inspired the song: “The Ballad of Ira Hayes”, which became a hit when Johnny Cash recorded it. (Video here.)

According to the Indian Country Today article, the choice to focus attention on the second flag raising photo was strategic; the U.S. government wanted to use it to raise money for the war. “Hayes was ordered to leave his buddies in Easy Company and return to the States to be presented as a hero of Iwo Jima on a kind of barnstorming tour,” the article said. “It was something he didn’t want to do, and the intense pressures he felt reportedly led him to drinking heavily.”

Charlo would die in later fighting. Hayes had a difficult life after returning from the war, an died young from alcohol poisoning and exposure. For more on Hayes, see Indian Country Today’s articles: The Ballad of Ira Hayes: Remembering a Reluctant Hero (2013).


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