Last week at our home football game here in Apache, Oklahoma, we had a different sort of halftime performance. A Comanche elder, with some help to steady him, made his way to the announcer's booth at the top of the bleachers. In the middle of the field on the 50 yard-line, an Indian dancer in full feather regalia and face-paint stood. "We now will honor our brave soldiers," was announced. The dancer pushed a stake into the ground to which he was tethered by a 10-12 foot rawhide strip. A CD was played with Native music (in the Northern drum style), a song for the warrior. He then began to dance, round and round the stake, acknowledging "heaven" at the beginning and the end of the dance by his motions. At the conclusion of the dance the announcer asked us to remember and to honor all of our "brave warriors" serving in Iraq and elsewhere.

I asked an older Kiowa man I know about the dance. He said that the stake and tether were the tradition of what whites called the "dog soldier," a tradition originating among the Cheyenne. Those warriors would stake themselves to the ground, tethered by rawhide, and fight from that spot. (I did not ask him, but I assume this tradition must go back to the time before horses reached the Indians, when fighting was done on foot.) They were not allowed to surrender. Nor could they retreat unless another warrior of their tribe pulled up their stake. My informant told me that after a battle between the Kiowa and the Cheyenne, the Cheyenne told the Kiowa that because of the bravery they had shown, the Cheyenne "gave" the Dog Soldier custom to the Kiowa. From then on the Kiowa had a warrior society of "Dog Soldiers", though in Kiowa the name was more like 'staked down' , if I recall correctly. (thoughts below)

I have posted before on the (to me) surprising patriotism of the Native Americans around here. (Which coexists with bumper stickers on pick-ups that say "My heroes have always killed cowboys," posters of Geronimo with the caption "Homeland Security since 1492," and jokes about wearing black on Columbus Day.) Here and here.

One of the things that struck me about the code of the "dog soldier" was the way it exemplified martial virtue, that is, courage in defense of one's people. The staked-down one would not surrender, nor retreat unless released by a comrade. He valued the life of his people more than his own life; and he valued his honor as one who had taken that vow.

As a Christian, I applied that dance, and that idea to myself, as an ideal for me to live up to regarding my faith.

I also found meaning for myself as a conservative. These are discouraging times for many conservatives, as seen in some of our posts here. So what. Don't count the odds. No surrender. No retreat.