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Honoring Our Veterans: Natives in the Military

By Cheryl Morgan

Indians have fought in every war of the United States; They love their country. Their People are loyal and patriotic.

Indigenous government decision making was adopted by Benjamin Franklin, as well as the founding of a democratic U.S. Government and the U. S. Constitution.

The Ideal “Of The People, By The People and For the People”, was adopted from Native Culture.

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John Riley was the chief of the Black River bands and also the Riley band of the Ojibwe. John built his home beside the Great Burial Mound on Water Street near Military Street in now Port Huron, Michigan, where the Federal Customs House building now sits. This was the gathering, or rendezvous, place for important council meetings with important chiefs, held on the banks of Black River.

The Allies also stayed at John’s home and on his lands while traveling through the area, the place where one of four reservations was established after the 1807 Treaty of Detroit, in which the Ojibwe, Pottawatomie, Ottawa, and Wyandot ceded 5 million acres in southeast Michigan to the U.S. Government. The John Riley Black River band was 200 members.

John was a leading spirit – Holy Man. John was born in 1761 in the Mohawk Valley of New York where his father originated. His mother was a Saginaw Princess, “Menaweamegogua” or “Menawcumegogua”, an important Chippewa woman who was daughter of an Indian chief.

John’s father was General James Van Slyke Riley, a well-respected Indian trader who served in the Revolutionary War. He was also a federal Indian commissioner, Indian agent, soldier, adventurer, and trader with the Saginaw Indians for 15 years. James Riley served in the Revolutionary War as an Indian commander and interpreter. He held many important occupations in his lifetime. He was Sheriff of Schnechtedy County, New York; interpreter for the U.S. Army; and judge, alderman, and postmaster at Schnechtedy.

His sons were all well-educated, good looking, well-spoken, and intelligent. The brothers fought with General Cass in 1812 for the American cause. They led raids killing British Indian Allies.

John and his brothers, James and Peter, were employed by the U.S. Government as interpreters, as scouts, and for special assignments. John was a great Indian leader, a Great Spirit. He was indispensable in treaties with the Indians, a faithful and a staunch American. He was sent to secure captives taken in raids and convey information to the Indians and the U.S. Government. John served under General Hull and General Cass. He was away from home much of the time, traveling as a scout and ranger. He was an interpreter, a diplomatic statesman, a peace negotiator for the U.S., and an invaluable aid among the various Indian tribes when securing agreements with them. He received land at the Treaty of Chicago, Maple Groves, Treaty of Saginaw, and many others. John was a liaison and special mission’s agent.

John married an Indian woman and had children. He accidentally killed Jacob Harson in 1810 or 1811, near Bear Creek in Ontario.

Peter Riley was bribed to be quiet at the Treaty of Saginaw in 1819. Peter lived at Belle River and married a French woman named Delno.

James Sr. at 75 years old returned to Michigan for the Treaty of Saginaw in 1819, held near Caro, Michigan. He was to collect money owed him for 10 years of trading with the Indians. He advised his boys on land deals at St. Clair County and Saginaw. His sons also received land of 640 acres at the mouth of the Saginaw River, John’s land being where the present Bay City is now located. The sons were natural leaders and doubly respected as sons of the old Indian trader (Schnechtedy Union Star Newspaper article).

James Jr. was a guide and interpreter for General and Governor Cass on his expedition to the Upper Peninsula in 1820. James worked for Cass until he died in 1829. He served as interpreter to find the source of the Mississippi and the natural resources of the Northwest. Houghton, Schoolcraft, and Douglas were among the entourage.

John and his brothers were scouts for the Americans during the Indian Wars and other wars fought against the British near Detroit and elsewhere. They were honest and faithful, aiding everywhere with loyal fidelity.

John preferred to live at Black River in now Port Huron, Michigan, where he had a general store and trading post downtown. His fence and gardens reached to 6th Street and south to Pine Street.

John was instrumental in keeping Black Duck safe after he killed a boasting Canadian Indian who talked of killing Americans, who were Black Ducks’ friends. John was granted permission from the Fort Gratiot officers to give him protective custody and from Governor Cass to negotiate safe trade of the exchange with the dead man’s family, which was liquor and goods to secure his safety.

After the Treaty of Washington ceded the reservations in St. Clair County, Michigan in 1836, John’s father bought land on the Belle River northeast of Memphis, Michigan for the band to live on in Riley Center. This land was named Riley Township in 1841, in honor of John Riley. The land was used for hunting and gathering cranberries and maple sugar. John spent his winters there.

The settlement at Riley was called “Knawkechagame”. John opened a fine store in Riley Township. John’s sister lived at Belle River with him. She gathered cranberries, maple syrup, and candy to trade at Port Huron and the St. Clair River and to stock the store. John built a trading post store there and, because he was trusting and free with credit, in time had extended credit and lost all his goods and money. He was a kind man but went broke, forced out of business and to move to Canada at Bear – Sydenham and Aux Sauble – River.

He was Chief of the Chippewa and Munsees, 25 miles from the Moravian Village in the London District, Ontario, on a 9,000, acre reservation, then at Muncietown on the Thames River. He then lived a White life. John died at Muncietown in 1842. H.P. Chase gave his burial eulogy. One source cites Courtland N.Y. as his burial place.


General Ely Parker, Donehogaua, born Hasonoanda at Indian Falls New York on the Tonawunda Reservation. A full-blooded Iroquois, born in 1828, who was head of the Indian Bureau, President Grant’s Commissioner of Indian Affairs. The first Indian to hold this office. He was the man who made major reforms and restructuring. He had many enemies in Washington.

He had an encyclopedic mind and was keeper of the western door of the Wolf clan. His maternal grandfather was Jimmy Johnson, Sosohawa, grandson of the prophet “Handsome Lake”. His father was Seneca Chief William Parker, a veteran of the War of 1812. He was grandson of “Disappearing Smoke” (Old King), a prominent figure in early history of the Seneca. He received the Red Jacket Medal, given to Red Jacket by President George Washington in 1792. The medal was inherited by Jimmy Johnson, Parker’s grandfather.

He was Chief of Staff, Military Secretary, and a lifelong friend of Grant’s. He was also a Seneca attorney, engineer, tribal diplomat, and brigadier general of volunteers at Appotomax.

Parker was the major informant for the book League of the Hodenosaunee Iroquois (1851) by Louis Henry Morgan.

It was Parker who penned the final official document that ended the Civil War. He is interred with Red Jacket and his ancestors in Forest Lawn Cemetery, Buffalo, New York.


The Chocktaw of Oaklahoma, pioneered the use of Native American Languqges as military codes. During the waning days of World War 1, in 1918. Many native languages had never been written down. The Germans who had cracked the American language codes, were completely baffled and confused by the Indian language. While their children were being whipped for speaking in their native tongue at schools back home, on the battlefield the Native language was the answer to a very big problem. A code was spoken within a code for the Choctaw had no words for Machine gun it was “little gun shoot fast”. Batallions were indicated by a number of grains of corn. There were 19 Choctaw telephone squad. Later other American tribes were used the same way, the Comanche among them.

Choctaws were placed in each company to relay messages. The results were very gratifying.  Within 24 hours the tides of the battle had turned around and after 72 hours the Germans were in full retreat.

Their efforts were barely known outside the reservations. They didn’t gain American Citizenship until 1924.


During the WWII Theater, Indian Code Talkers from 18 tribes were very instrumental in sending messages for the U.S. government. Their codes were never cracked by the enemy. INDIANS IN THE MILITARY

Indians have fought in every war of the United States; they love their country. Their people are loyal and patriotic.

18 tribes supplied “Code Talkers” in WWII. The Navajo are the best known. These men were revered upon return from the war. Their language could never be cracked. They were very instrumental to the Armed Forces. They were scouts, two miles ahead of the troops in dangerous conditions. They were to be killed if captured, keeping the secret code.

In 2000, the Navajo Code Talkers were given honors for their service. The Navajo code talkers of ww2 received recognition when their code was declassified in 1968. In 2000, the Navajo Code Talkers were given honors for their service, they received medals in 2001, all other code talkers remained federally unrecognized.

In 1989 The French govt. honored the Choctaw code talkers of ww1 and ww2.

It was in 2008 that the code talker’s recognition act was passed in the US. Recognizing hundreds of overlooked code talkers from many tribes. Finally receiving Americas highest honor Congressional Gold Medals. Having unique designs to represent their tribe. The families of each code talker received a silver version of the Gold Medal.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said, in this nation’s hour of greatest need Native American languages proved to have great value indeed. The US govt. turned to a people and a language they had tried to eradicate.


Company K was an all-Indian company known as the “Indian Company”. When the Civil War broke out in 1863, the Union Army, the North, needed sharpshooters when the White men failed the tests. They went to the Native Americans, who were hunters and farmers and loggers. The “river hogs”, experienced log handlers, became the Co. K 2nd Michigan Calvary.

147 men came to be tested, and 147 men were welcomed. Not one was a warrior. These men were indispensable to the cause. The company was mostly Native Americans from Michigan, a few from Ontario.

In order to be a sharpshooter, you had to be able to hit an eight-inch pie plate, four out of five times at a distance of 220 yards. This was with open sights and a musket rifle.

Company K fought in the Civil War under General Grant. They were mustered out into service on January 12, 1863. They were ordered to the front at the Battle of the Wilderness. Their captain was Archibald Campbell. They were of Boonville and Chattanooga fame, “The Black River Boys”.

These men have seen hard service. They had volunteered several times, they had fought gallantly beside Black and White men. 25% gave the ultimate sacrifice. Fifteen were at Andersonville, Hell Prison, 9 died. They were promptly forgotten.

Captain Campbell’s commandmant was, General Phillip Sheridan, who made his famous 20-mile ride on October 19, 1864 from Winchester to Cedar Creek, to rally his demoralized troops. Sheridan’s war horse, “Riemzi”, a black charger, was raised in Burtchville Township, near Lakeport, Michigan. The citizens purchased the jet-black colt from William Leonard and presented him fully-equipped to Captain Campbell. The colt was noted for his coolness and intelligence under fire. Campbell presented him to General Sheridan, who had admired the superb qualities of the fiery colt.

Russel Leonard bought the colt from A.P. Sexton for $90.00, who sold him to his son, William Leonard, who lived in Burtchville on Comstock Road. He broke him to harness and hauled cordwood 17 miles to Port Huron. He was known as the Leonard Colt, at three years old with three white feet and 16 hands high. A hand is four inches from ground to withers – top of shoulders – at the base of the neck. He was of Morgan Stock. He rode like eagle flight. The people of Port Huron paid $175.00 for this prize colt.

He died at 20 years old after all the battles of Sheridan. His remains were stuffed and given to the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C. The saddle was in the Museum at Port Huron.

Letters received home from the superior officers stated that these Co. K men were among the best soldiers in service, gallantly charging in direct assault, as well as doing effective sharpshooting and picket duty. They fought valiantly under the Stars and Stripes as their ancestors did under the plumes of the Wild American Eagle. They cast a glamour over the annals of the North that shall not be easily effaced.

Lieutenant Garrett A. Graveraet recruited Indians and organized the Company. He brilliantly led his men in a daring charge at Spottsylvania, after seeing his father fall at his side. Graveraet was a talented young man. He was one of the first government teachers at L’Arbre Croache and had great influence among the Natives. Always honorable and straightforward in his dealings, his confidence was never betrayed. And, “My Indians”, as he loved to call them, proved true and lasting friends. The remnants were among the first to enter Richmond and share the great victory of the North. William Gravaeratte, in 1944, spoke for the Ojibwe saying, “We’ve done our hitch in Hell”.

In the Civil War, Native Americans had the largest number of deaths, fighting this war on both sides, Union and Confederate.

In WWI, 12,000 Native Americans served.

In WWII, 99% of eligible American Indians registered for the draft, the highest percentage of any ethnic group. 44,500 served in uniform; 46,000 served in the Defense Industry.

In the Vietnam War, over 41,000 Native Americans served.

In Operation Desert Storm, more than 24,000 Native Americans served.

Native Americans fought in the Korean War, Vietnam War, Gulf War, and Persian Gulf War, and 9,000 are still serving.

There are 189,800 Native American veterans still living. The warriors dedicate their lives to preserve and protect the people.

The last battle of the Old Indian Wars was fought in Nevada in 1911 (Steiner).

In 1924, the Indian Citizen Act was passed.

In 1978, the Indian Religious Freedom Act was passed.

In 1989, the Native American Grave and Repatriation Act was passed into law to bring home to the people thousands of Native American ancestors’ bones and religious artifacts. This is ongoing, returning remains and artifacts from institutions across the country to the ancestral homelands at government expense.


Pegahmagabow, Francis, Binaaswi, “The Wind that blows off”, WWI unsung hero, “Peggy”, the most decorated Indigenous soldier in Canada’s history, the deadliest sniper, scout, and messenger of WWI, having 378 kills and 300 captures. He rose to the rank of Company Sergeant – Major, several ranks above Corporal. He came home to discrimination. He was Supreme Chief of the Ojibwe Nation of Wasauksing, now Shewanaga First Nation, Caribou totem, and worked for his people. He is honored with a bronze monument at Parry Sound, on June 23, 2016, on National Aboriginal Day in Canada.



Joseph O. Bennett Greaux, Lance Corporal, U.S. Marine 1968-1970, received THREE PURPLE HEARTS IN HIS SERVICE IN VIET NAM! He was proud of his family, heritage, community, Country and the U.S. Marine Corps. He always said, “He would do it all over again if he had to, for his country.” There is a plaque on display in Kimball Twp. Offices honoring JOE.

Joe Greaux – Minnwaasenieta – Joeph O. Bennett Greaux, was a “tunnel rat” in Vietnam, rising in rank to Lance Corporal in the U.S. Marines. His health was affected by Agent Orange. He worked for and retired from the Port Huron Area School District in maintenance, plumbing, and repairing audio visual equipment. He also repaired technical equipment as a side line.

Joe wants to have an all culture get-together to share common bonds, promote goodwill, and exchange cultural traditions. God bless you, Joe, and thanks for serving our country and being a proud and patriotic American and Marine.

Joe was born October 23, 1950 and passed to eternity on February 5, 2017. He was honored with a celebration of life at the Pow Wow grounds on Black River, near Wadhams Michigan, on August 12, 2017. An Eagle soared over the Black River nearby. He was an elder and spiritual leader, Peace Chief and a Medicine Man, of the Woodlands Ojibwe. He loved to share with and teach younger people the Ojibwe language and culture. Joe headed the Black River Pow Wow for many years; he was a singer-drummer with other local men who won awards for their drumming. Joe was of Ojibwe and Seneca ancestry.

The first Blue Water Pow Wow Celebration was held in 1995. Joe, was instrumental in organizing it. Sharon Kota, taught the culture and language also, and was a founding Pow Wow member.

Joe Greaux 2014 interview excerpt

“We need to stop disrespecting ourselves and one another. People need to have respect for themselves and others, being kind, courteous, helping one another. Like any culture, there are good and bad. There are those that are polite and those that are not polite.

We are still here. There were many battles and important meetings on Black River. Many of our kids went to Indian schools. This almost destroyed our culture. We were to be annihilated. Our lifestyle, customs, language, and religion were nearly destroyed. But the people survived. We went underground; together we overcame the cloak of darkness.

The records of atrocity were burned, hiding the truth. The rich man had to get rid of the people to fill their pockets. Most wars are based around money, oil—wherever you look, everything is based on money.

In the 1920s and 1930s, we were a mixed people after the first child the government tied [the] tubes. The truth is hidden. Before 2006, it was against the law to speak our language off-reserve. In 2006, George Bush restored Indian American rights to freedom of religion and other traditions.

At one time, the St. Clair River was much shallower. Our people dried fish at the lake. The racks were stacked eight feet high. At lakeside, the shoreline was another 150 feet out. Dams from hydro companies and dredging has made it deep. At Pine Grove Park, the shore was 75 to 100 feet farther out. The stumps of trees that were cut are still there in the original bank of the St. Clair River.

General Custer was a bad sicko.

Our language is pictorial; you see it at the same time you speak it. Some words have different meanings for men and women.

In a lot of Indian cultures, the women made the decisions.

Pow Wows are family reunions open to everybody; everyone comes – they come from all over.

The Boy Scouts started with Indians.

This was a great trading area; all Native tribes came to trade in this area.

The Tobacco and Neutral nations are totally extinct.

Some of our people helped the slaves from the south; Natives were a part of the Underground Railroad. This was one of the biggest points, a lot came through for freedom.

Our people we worked as loggers.

We were soldiers for the best-paying country at war.

The Indians thought they were suckering Europeans into giving them money because the Earth belongs to all, the Earth is the Lord’s. It belongs to God and cannot be bought, as the sky, water, [and] sun also belong to God.

There were four races in the same boat: eight people. (Noah’s Ark)

In the beginning of time, the Creator had five sons: A Black son to give the gift of strength to share with all the world, a Red son given the gift of taking care of Mother Earth and all our relations, the Earth and all it entails. The Yellow son was given the gift of patience, the White son the gift of fire. The fifth son had no color because he turned away and called himself God.

An old man said this at the Fire Teaching, the Elder said:

“The Black is strong but didn’t share his gift, or he would teach all the people to be strong inside. The Yellow didn’t share, or you wouldn’t have suicide, because people would have patience. (The Lodge got more quiet.) The Red man, if he kept his word, you wouldn’t have pollution or sickness. The White brother kept his word – light on in the morning, electricity for cooking food, heat, cars, everything, has to do with fire. Even the giisis – sun. Dobeka, even the moon reflects that fire at night. No Color was cast out; we don’t talk about him, he has no meaning – shunned.”

White sage bandaged over a cut and it will heal bed sores are healed this way.

The Sarnia Ojibwe are a quiet people; they keep to themselves.

Sweet Grass has tons of uses, as a smoke or smudge, in teas, for gall stones, kidney stones, urinary tract infections.

This is Mount Pleasant Territory, Mt. Pleasant Reserve Territory.” Greaux/Morgan, 2014 interview


Cheryl Morgan is the Author of: OTTISSIPPI The Truth about Great Lakes Indian History and The Gateway to The West, 2017

The book is available at, Smashwords, Ingram Spark, order also at Barnes and Noble.






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