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Documentary Looks at Healing for Native American Vets

Dan Bammes
Gateway to the Healing Garden at the Salt Lake City VA Medical Center, site of weekly Native American sweat lodge ceremonies

  A new television documentary on KUED highlights the struggles of Native American veterans of America’s recent wars. 

Healing the Warrior’s Heart looks at the difficulties some Native American veterans have dealt with as they readjusted to civilian life after serving in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Filmmaker Taki Telonidis says Native Americans serve in the U.S. military at a higher rate than other ethnic groups.  Like other vets, they often suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and other problems when they get home.

Appearing on KUER’s Radio West, Telonidis said some also have resources in their communities to help.  For example, the Blackfoot tribe has a tradition of sharing responsibility when soldiers tell their stories.

Telonidis explained the community response this way: “You were there.  You did what you thought was right at the moment.  Now you wish you could take it back, but it’s not all on you.  You were there for us.  We send you.  You were representing us.  Therefore we share in your burden.”

The documentary also looks at sweat lodge ceremonies at the Salt Lake Veterans Affairs Medical Center and how they’ve benefited many vets, not just Native Americans.

While there was some controversy earlier this year over who would lead those ceremonies, the Salt Lake VA now holds them every week.  It will recognize the value of its sweat lodge tomorrow with a ceremony led by Chief Arvol Looking Horse, a well-known Lakota spiritual leader.

Healing the Warrior’s Heart was scheduled to air Monday evening at 9:00 p.m. on KUED Channel 7 and again this Sunday at 4:00 p.m.

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