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Painting Honors Indian Women; 'Warrior' Model Serves in Guard

By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 25, 2003 – A laugh was the first thing out of the mouth of visual artist Enoch Kelly Haney when he was asked to do a painting of an American Indian woman warrior.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Oklahoma Army National Guard Maj. Vickie Morgan Jones, a Seneca Indian, posed for this painting called "Heritage of Valor" by visual artist and Oklahoma state senator Enoch Kelly Haney. Haney painted Jones pictured as a Seneca woman righteously defending her camp with a club in hand. In the upper right of the painting is a shadow of helicopter pilot Jones in her flight suit as a 20th century Native American protecting her homeland. Photo of painting courtesy of Maj. Vickie Morgan Jones

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

"I can't make any money selling a woman warrior!" the Oklahoma state senator exclaimed to Oklahoma Air National Guard Brig. Gen. LaRita Aragon, a descendant of the Cherokee and Choctaw nations. She is the assistant adjutant general of the Oklahoma Air National Guard and the Air National Guard assistant to the assistant secretary of the Air Force for financial management.

While researching the idea, Haney discovered that American Indian women had a "homeland defense role," Agaron said. "When the men went off on hunts or to war, it was the women who picked up weapons to defend their families, children and elders, and their homes and possessions," she noted.

Haney, a member of the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma, did decide to do the painting and told Agaron he needed a model. "Since I don't fit the image of a Native American, I asked a young Seneca who worked with me if she would like to help with the project," said Aragon, who also has Irish, Russian, German and British ancestry.

The Seneca Indian is Army Maj. Vickie Morgan Jones, the first woman in Oklahoma and first American Indian woman in the nation to become a helicopter pilot. She said she was also the first woman to complete air assault school.

Jones, then a captain, agreed to pose for the painting wearing her mother's Seneca dress. She also posed with her flight suit and helmet. Haney's painting depicts her as a Seneca woman righteously defending her camp with a club in hand. In the upper right of the painting is a shadow of Jones in her flight suit as a 20th century Native American protecting her homeland.

To the senator's surprise, "Heritage of Valor" became a financial success. He sold the original for $10,000 and then went on to sell more than 500 signed prints. Haney donated a signed print to the Women in Military Service For America Memorial in Arlington, Va.

"Although I posed for this painting, I prefer to be a quiet person about it," Jones. "I'm without a doubt humbled about the experience, and wish not to outshine the purpose of why 'Heritage of Valor' was done.

"I'm a proud Native American female who in her life has accomplished some things," continued Jones, 49, an operations and training officer for the Oklahoma Army National Guard Recruiting and Retention Command. "None (of my accomplishments) were done for glorification or bragging rights. There are many other women in military service who have accomplished more, regardless of what race she was."

After completing the painting, Haney said he hoped it showed how important women have been as defenders. "As a lioness would defend her young, so do the women of this great nation bravely volunteer to defend their families, their country, their heritage," he said. "Although it's not widely recognized, women have fought for our freedom throughout our history.

"It's high time we honor the sacrifices made by these brave women over the past 200 years, and the contributions they are making today, serving in the U.S. military throughout the world," the senator continued. "With the painting, I wanted to pay tribute to the women who have given so much to our great nation."

Calling Haney "a great artist," Jones said that when she graduated from flight school, she'd planned to ask him to paint her wearing the Seneca dress her mother, Cordelia Conner, had made. She wanted to be sitting on a painted horse with helicopters in the clouds.

"It wasn't meant to be at that time," she said.

When she was 19, the Army major said, she considered following her father's footsteps into the Air Force, but decided she "wasn't mature enough to make a commitment like that." Then, a few years later during a time of "self- discovery," she joined the Oklahoma Army National Guard's 279th Infantry Regiment on March 24, 1978, and as her self-discovery evolved, she became heavily involved in American Indian religious ceremonies.

"I felt that I wanted to protect the land of my people," said Jones. "I was raised on an Air Force base in England and remember the Bay of Pigs (the U.S.- backed invasion of Cuba on April 17, 1961).

"I wanted to know what to do in the event we went to war and the missiles started flying, thinking I would have the knowledge given me from military training to help the civilian population," she said.

Jones graduated from flight school at Fort Rucker, Ala., in September 1981. "I had no idea I was the first Native American female in the country (to graduate from the school)," she recalled, "but I did know I would be the first female (pilot) in the Oklahoma Army National Guard."

Her first job as a pilot was as a medical platoon leader. She flew missions in support of Guard units throughout Oklahoma until joining the active Guard in March 1989.

Jones said everyone's service is important, not just that of American Indian women. "Freedom is what we as Americans can give to our generations to come, so the importance of gender isn't an issue," she said. "I respect all races and believe each person serving is important in making their contribution to preserving freedom."

American Indian military history is a subject that should be discussed on military installations and ships at sea during American Indian Heritage Month, Jones said.

"I did talks last year to schools in my area, educating them about Ira Hayes (a Pima Indian Marine who helped raise the American flag on Iwo Jima during World War II), Navajo code talkers and our Medal of Honor recipients," she noted. "Also, many individuals have never been to a powwow. We have beautiful dances that have meanings."

Her father, Carl Glass Sr., was a full-blooded Cherokee. He retired as an Air Force senior master sergeant in 1968. Her mother, Cordellia Bernice Conner, the product of the Seneca-Cayuga and Quapaw tribes, was a licensed practical nurse. "Both of my parents have left this world for one better," Jones said.

Her husband, Lt. Col. Paul Jones, 57, also is active duty Guard. A native of Muskogee, Okla., he is director of military support with the responsibility of handling disasters that occur in the state.

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