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Iva Good Voice Flute

Iva Good Voice Flute grew up on the Oglala Sioux Reservation in Pine Ridge, SD–one of the poorest areas in the country. About 85 percent of its residents live below poverty level.

In an interview with Ms. Magazine (Spring 2003), Iva Good Voice Flute told a reporter, “there are no jobs on the reservation and the military provides jobs. It is ironic that Native Americans join the United States military, but we serve to protect our families, our country and our own freedoms. So many people on the reservation serve just as their families served.”

She came from a family of four women military veterans, but no one told her about them until after she enlisted in the Air Force in 1991. After her military service, Iva became a founder of the first chartered all woman American Legion Post in the nation and serves as the first female Native commander. She is using her military benefits to continue her college education and she counsels young people about the military.

Volunteering in the military
My mother didn’t accept that I was going into the Air Force until she realized I was actually leaving. She was sad which was understandable. But I couldn’t tell when I called home during basic training. She was extremely strong all the way through. It took longer for the males in my family to accept it and it took even longer for the males in the general population here.

Native tradition
My upbringing was a spiritual upbringing. I was taught there were values at an early age—honesty and integrity and that helped shape us as we got older. I never felt uncomfortable about my gender or my nationality, but I believe the men have stereotypes about the women here. It goes back to the culture. The woman, she can’t do this. She can’t do that. The culture changes over time, but it’s slow.

Military experience
I was always proud. I was treated as an equal in the military and that’s why I became empowered. One summer I was home on leave for a powwow and I had wanted to fold the flag at retreat. An elderly male veteran came and took the flag out of my hands and told me I could not fold it because I was a woman. I cannot forget the sting of those words. The incident changed me. I make very sure that the perspective of a woman veteran is heard and understood. We now have a drum song that is specifically for women veterans. It did not exist until a few years ago.