American Indians who liberated Italy: segregated and discriminated heroes who volunteered to fight Nazism


When Sam Rossetti he left Palermo to go looking for gold in America, perhaps he dreamed of falling in love with Caroline Sagaul of the tribe Nak’azdli. But who knows if he would have ever imagined that his children, the Sicilian-nak’azdli brothers Rossetti, would have been among the American Indians voluntary enlisted with the American army to free Europe from Nazifascism. They both participated in the Normandy landings and throughout their lives wondered what their father’s Sicily smelled like. That of Jack and James (pictured in evidence) is just one of the forgotten stories that Matteo Incerti brought to light in the book “The Native Americans who liberated Italy” (Corsero publisher), a story built between archival research and word of mouth of the heirs found in the indigenous tribes of Canada is United States. Indeed, the latter have made available the precious correspondence dated between 1943 and 1945: inside are the stories of hundreds of American Indians who chose to leave for the front and found themselves on the front line defending those same rights that were denied to them at home. In the queue an unpublished appendix: the burial places in Italy of the 57 Native Americans enlisted in the Canadian (51) and US (6) army that have fallen in our country. The book will be presented on Sunday 21 June at 4 pm in Berceto (Parma) in the Tatanka Ioytaka-Sitting Bull park.

The search for Incerti begins in the Monument Valley in Arizona in August 2018. A journalist approaches one of the guides with a question buzzing in his head: are there American Indians who enlisted with World War II allies? The answer is the first sign: “You have to go further north“. Thus began a two-year journey that fills notebooks and diaries, until it becomes a book full of faces. The first page is dated July 4, 1943: the ocean waves crash on the bow of the Circassia ship. Final destination: the coasts of Sicily for “the largest naval operation ever carried out”. The last story takes place on December 23, 2019 in Pofi (Frosinone) with the exact burial place of Metis Florio Carriere. The journalist brings “white and red” flowers to the grave, the same “chosen by two twins, orphaned by their father, an Ojibwa from Ontario, who died in Romagna in September 1944”. In the middle, images and dialogues flow like in a film that reproduces exactly those distant days: the landing in Sicily and the dozens of battles, from Agira to the Liberation of Rome, up to the breakthrough of the Eastern Gothic Line in Romagna. Hundreds of indigenous people from dozens of tribes were involved, the author explains. Just to name a few: cree, mohawk, ojibwa, “black feet”, pawnee, creek, cherokee. At least fifty of them died on Italian soil and Incerti not only tracked them down, but rebuilt their map.

But there is much more to the pages than deaths and battles. That of Wilmer Nadijwon for example, it is the story of a destiny shared by a family: “The father, a veteran of the First World War, had hoped that at least he would not leave for the front. Wilmer had promised him. Then he too gave in. ” But, “before joining, Nadijwon had to defeat an enemy stronger than any army. Like all his indigenous peers, at eight he had been snatched from the family to be locked up in one of the many Residential Schools“. As the author explains, “it was a network of colleges established in 1876, with the issue of theIndian Act, where the natives of the First Nations, Inuite Metìs were locked up, separating them from their families. Residential schools they had the task of “civilizing” the native peoples, separating children from parents and preventing the transmission of the language and their ancestral and spiritual culture from one generation to another “. Nadijwon talks about this with the indigenous comrades who left for Italy like him and says: “We go to Europe to fight the Nazis, but what are, if not places of segregation, those where they have closed us as children for almost six years? I pissed on myself and they forced me to sleep alone for years in the laundry room, where the cold bitten every night. They didn’t even call us by name. I, like many others, was only a number, 79 “. But the sacrifice in Italy would reverse the course. “Think about it? If we win the war, everything will change“. His friend replied: “If you say so, brother …”. And he replies with the anguish of those who do not know what to expect from returning home and not even if he will be able to save his life.

Henry Beaudry, cree from Sweetgrass First Nation, Saskatchewan

But Nadijwon’s fears are those of many other Native Americans, who left for a distant war and ended up in the atrocious suffering of a world that was going to plunge. Among these there is Henry Beaudry the Saskatchewan cree: landed in Sicily on 10 July 1943 he was captured at Villa Prati di Bagnacavallo (Ravenna) on 14 December 1944 and then managed to escape from German concentration camp in Moosburg going into hiding in the woods in the snow for two months. Then the Oklahoma pawnee Brummet Echohawk who outlined his actions and those of his fellow soldiers in Italy with the 45th US Division in dozens of pencil drawings: his heirs have allowed the reproduction of four copies in the book. The cover is dedicated to Huron Eldon Brant, mohawk from the Quinto Bay reserve in Ontario: on July 14, 1943, he attacked a German post in Grammichele (Catania), killing thirty prisoners and making them prisoners. Brant, then died on October 14, 1944 in the battle of the village of Bulgaria, at the gates of Gambettola (Forlì Cesena) and today rests in the cemetery of the Commonwealth forces of Cesena. Or, just to mention one more story, there is finally Orville Johnston, Cape Croker oijbwa, who fought in Sicily and then in Romagna. He had a son in Italy, who was later sentenced to seek him in vain all his life. The granddaughters helped to reconstruct his story in the book and, who knows, now they hope to find his traces. They are stories of forgotten heroes, the ones that Incerti brought back to life: a real sacred act for the heirs of these men who fell into silence. So much so that the author was officially renamed by the tribes “Pa pa mi sut ki hiw – Soaring Eagle”(Ie: Soaring Eagle). Because only one of them could have given the missing indigenous people the honors they finally deserve.

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