No One Ever Asked Me: The World War II Memoirs of an Omaha Indian Soldier

No One Ever Asked Me: The World War II Memoirs of an Omaha Indian Soldier

No One Ever Asked Me: The World War II Memoirs of an Omaha Indian Soldier

No One Ever Asked Me: The World War II Memoirs of an Omaha Indian Soldier


As a young adolescent, Hollis Dorion Stabler underwent a Native ceremony in which he was given the new name Na-zhin-thia, Slow to Rise. It was a name that no white person asked to know during Hollis's tour of duty in Anzio, his unacknowledged difference as an Omaha Indian adding to the poignancy of his uneasy fellowship with foreign and American soldiers alike. Stabler's story- coming of age on the American plains, going to war, facing new estrangement upon coming home- is a universal one, rendered wonderfully strange and personal by Stabler's uncommon perspective, which embraces two worlds, and by his unique voice. Stabler's experiences during World War II- tours of duty in Tunisia and Morocco as well as Italy and France, and the loss of his brother in battle- are at the center of this powerful memoir, which tells of growing up as an Omaha Indian in the small-town Midwest of Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, and Oklahoma in the 1920s and 1930s. A descendant of the Indians who negotiated with Lewis and Clark on the Missouri River, Stabler describes a childhood that was a curious mixture of progressivism and Indian tradition, and that culminated in his enlisting in the old horse cavalry when war broke out- a path not so very different from that walked by his ancestors. Victoria Smith, of Cherokee-Delaware descent, interweaves historical insight with Stabler's vivid reminiscences, providing a rich context for this singular life.


Victoria Smith


The tall, elderly man who opened the door to anthropologist Mark Awakuni-Swetland and me pushed a folded newspaper in my face as we stepped into his home in Walthill, on the Omaha Indian Reservation bordering the Missouri River in northeastern Nebraska. a little dog, no taller than the wheels on his master's aluminum walker, yapped an enthusiastic greeting from the floor.

“Hush up, Rambo!” he scolded jokingly in a loud, deep voice. “Look! Look what my horoscope says for today!” a gnarled finger jabbed the appropriate column. Not knowing what else to do, I read out loud …

“Today you might get to know someone better who is also eager to learn more about you. Do something constructive about developing this relationship.” I glanced up to see him beaming down at me expectantly.

“Pleased to meet you, Mr. Stabler,” I yelled at him, laughing as we shook hands. Hollis was almost deaf. “That's my horoscope, too.”

So began my friendship with No zhí thia, Mr. Hollis Stabler, much beloved and popular elder of the Omaha Nation—and with his dog, Rambo, and cat, Sweet Pea—in December 2001. As it turned out, Hollis and I didn't share an exact birth date, but we were cut out of the same bolt. I soon met Hollis's grandson, Redwing, a student at the Haskell Indian Institute in Kansas, and Redwing's mother, Wehnona, who is Hollis's daughter. As ceo of the nearby Winnebago Hospital and of the Carl T. Curtis Health Education Center, Nonie leads crusades for Native American healthcare. Her husband, Terry St. Cyr, a business manager for the neighboring Winnebago tribe, has been helping guide his Ho-chunk nation to financial solvency for several years.

Hollis had been a soldier in World War II, and he needed someone to help him write his war memoirs for publication. He had already made a film for the Omaha schoolchildren, and several of his anecdotes had been published in local newspapers, and in the newsletters of veterans'

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