American Indian Veterans Honored in D-Day Memorial Events in France for Service 6/11/2018

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Opening Ceremony to honor American Indians for their service on June 6, 1944 at Normandy on D-Day during World War II.

Published June 10, 2018

OMAHA BEACH, France — In the first week of June this year, there were seven memorial events within France which marked the first anniversary of “Charles Shay Indian Memorial Park” on the shore of Omaha beach.

France welcomed with respect and honored our Native American Veterans and community members from around the United States, as they gathered to support 93-year-old Charles Norman Shay, a Penobscot Tribal elder and hero, who landed with the Big Red One Army 1st Division. Shay, who was a medic, was on the first wave to land on Omaha Beach, June 6th, 1944. He then went on to serve in Korea, was a POW, and then finished his service to our country.

One ceremony, which fell on June 5, 2018, remembered all the contributions of Native soldiers who gave their all on D-Day, June 6, 1944. Over 500 American Indian served during the World War II campaign.

Surrounded by eagle staffs representing numerous tribal nations is Charles Shay (Penobscot).

These ceremonies marked history in another way, as CEO of Trickster Art Gallery Joseph Podlasek organized for the first time Native Veterans and the Native community to be a part of multiple ceremonies around France, with the eagle staffs from the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi of Michigan, Miles Lac Tribe of Minnesota, and Williams Family Staff represented. Tribal flags were also presented from the Oklahoma Seminoles, the Penobscot Tribe of Maine, and each of the tribes that honored us with their Eagles Staffs.

Normandy survivor Charles Norman Shay remembers.

Representative from the Penobscot Tribe Jennifer Francis performed a ceremony on Omaha beach at the Park, and Trickster Art Gallery Native youths from Illinois Steven and Tristan Podlasek joined in to help carry the tribal flags. Native veteran of 28 years of service, Julia Kelly, gifted a jingle dress to Agiina Podlasek, to share a special healing and water ceremony. Christina Pike, a Native youth from MN, also helped share tobacco and join in the ceremonies. Cherokee flute music was presented by Mark Cleveland, to honor and soothe the souls of those who never made it home.

The delegation visited 58 grave sites, performing a small ceremony at each grave. The veterans smudged the crosses, gifted tobacco, and placed a beautiful picture, name plate, and a rose tied with a ribbon of the United States colors. Emily Farr, Multimedia Specialist of Trickster, and Corporal Kevin Payne, with the Department of Defense and U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs -Office of Tribal Government Relations, will create photo slide shows and a documentary, which will be available soon at

There will be a full exhibit covering the inaugural opening ceremony of the park dedicated in his honor, “D-Day Omaha Beach – Scarlett Waters, Charles Shay Indian Memorial Park” at Trickster Gallery, opening July 22nd, 2018, at 2 pm. This will be accompanied by the Smithsonian “Patriot Nations” exhibit to conclude the 4th Annual National Gathering. This all began with the National Gathering of American Indian Veterans, held the 3rd weekend each July at Cantigny Park, where 43 tribes were represented by their veterans in 2017.  Native Veterans across the country began to meet and discuss the untold stories of Native peoples’ contributions as the highest percentage of any race of people per capita to serve in the military, discussing topics such as health, wellness, employment, and policy change.

Funding for the ceremonies were made possible through a formal partnership with the McCormick Foundation, Cantigny Park, 1st Division Museum, and the France D-Day organizer Marie LeGrande. Marie’s niece Alice made the name plates with the soldier’s pictures for each of the Native grave sites. The sage was gifted for the trip by the Pala Band of Mission Indians in California. They worked with their youth group to pick and send sage and tobacco to Joe Podlasek, to be used throughout the week.

More Native Veterans and eagle staffs are invited to join thg group next year from June 1 – June 7 to celebrate the 75th anniversary of D-Day. Since it is the 75thanniversary, rooms need to be booked by February, 2019.  We also have a research team from Trickster, the Smithsonian NMAI, and of tribal historians gathering to verify names from the tribes who landed on D-Day, June 6th, 1944, to be read on the beach during future ceremonies.

For more information: or www.trickstergallery.com847.301.2090.

Charles Shay walks at Omaha Beach