Day of Honor 2023

7 months ago

On September 2, 2023, members of the Society of the Honor Guard, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier participated in the 28th annual Day of Honor at the Chief Plenty Coups State Park in Pryor, Montana. The annual Day of Honor is a celebration of the Chief's life and legacy, which has ties to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on November 11, 1921, when Chief Plenty Coups was selected to represent all Native American Tribes during the interment ceremony for the World War I Unknown Soldier. During the ceremony in 1921 Chief Plenty Coups offered this prayer:

“I feel it an honor to the red man that he takes part in this great event today

because it shows that the thousands of Indians who fought in the Great War

are appreciated by the white man.”

“I am glad to represent all the Indians of the United States

in placing on the grave of this noble unknown warrior this coup stick and war bonnet,

every eagle feather of which represents a deed of valor by my race.”

“I hope that the Great Spirit will grant that these noble warriors

have not given up their lives in vain,

and that there will be peace to all men hereafter.

This is the Indians’ hope and prayer.”


Artist rendition of Chief Plenty Coups praying at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on November 11, 1921. Artist: David Rappaport

The 28th Day of Honor (Restoration of Heritage) started with the Society paying their respects to the final resting place of Chief Plenty Coups. After a prayer in the native Crow language by Vincent GoesAhead Jr., those present lay a white rose inside the chained off area. The white rose ties back to when the World War I Unknown Soldier was selected by Army Sergeant Edward F. Younger on October 24, 1921 in Châlons-en-Champagne, France.

You can read more about the white rose here: https://tombguard.org/assets/images/news/American-Rose-Society_First-Word_JanFeb21_president.pdf

Former Tomb Guard Gavin McIlvenna and Chief Plenty Coups Flag Bearer Elsworth GoesAhead Sr lay white roses at the grave of the last traditional Chief of the Crow Nation.

The Crow Indian Nation then provides food to all present with a traditional Buffalo feed before the events start with Grand Entry, led by the Chief Plenty Coups Honor Guard, all veterans present and finally followed by dancers. This year the Secretary for the Crow Indian Nation was present and danced behind the Honor Guard. Throughout the day there were dancers, ceremonies, and speakers including William Big Day, a Crow language teacher at St Charles School, who spoke about the importance of heritage and the need to teach others of Crow culture.

The Chief Plenty Coups Honor Guard prepares for Grand Entry at the 2023 Day of Honor in Pryor, MT.

Society Co-founder, former Tomb Guard and immediate Past President Gavin McIlvenna (1997-98) was present to bestow Life Associate Member status in the Society to those members of the Chief Plenty Coups Honor Guard who were present on the Centennial in Washington DC in 2021.

“I am humbled to be invited again to the Day of Honor, and to walk amongst warriors such as these. I watched you that chilly morning in November as you stood tall on the plaza. I could only imagine what you must have felt, knowing it was 100 years ago that your ancestor, your chief, stood on the same spot. I heard your voices lift in prayer and song inside the Memorial Amphitheater, joined with the drums and voices of your people. It took my breath away to watch you and is a memory that I treasure.”

– Gavin McIlvenna (1997-98)


Photo: Honored were the Chief Plenty Coups Flag Bearer Elsworth GoesAhead Sr., Richard LittleLight, Robert FlatLip, Vincent GoesAhead Jr., Harry Lee RockAbove, and Jerome OlyHugs Jr. Not present, but also honored were Gary Rides Horse Sr., Matt FlatLip, and Elijah Reevis.

“Laura and I have attended two Chief Plenty Coup celebrations. The 1st one was a historical trip in time and contemplated the meaning of Chief Plenty Coups headdress and Coup Stick in the Trophy Room. The blending of two cultures, the Crow Nation and the Society of Honor Guard, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, has made a significant influence between the two, as the pride of both nations was on display at this year's annual celebration.

We were so proud of the young Crow Indians that participated in the ceremony with their colorful costumes and bells. The proud moment of the 2023 Chief Plenty Coup ceremony was when Gavin was adopted into the Crow Nation, an honor very few white men will enjoy.

I would like to thank all the persons in the background that made the 2023 Celebration a memory and encourage others to attend the 2024 Chief Plenty Coup Day of Honor and learn of a man with a vision of inclusiveness and wisdom.”

- Jim Buer, Tomb Guard (1960-61)

"Ellen and I were wonderfully impressed with the event. We were honored to participate in many of the ceremonies and meet all the members of the Crow Nation Honor Guard and learn about the proud history of their heritage and Chief Plenty Coup. Touring the park was inspiring, and spending time with Elsworth and Brandy a pleasure for both of us."

- Craig Fallon, Tomb Guard (1962-65)

Next year’s Day of Honor is on September 7, 2024 at the Chief Plenty Coups State Park just outside Pryor, Montana. To learn more about the Chief, the Crow people, and this unique state park please visit: Chief Plenty Coups State Park | Montana FWP (mt.gov)


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