Hollis Dorian Stabler
Excerpts from Hollis D. Stabler’s book “No One Ever Asked Me –
The World War II Memories of an Omaha Indian.”
"Long Wing was an orphan here at the Presbyterian Mission," eighty-four-year-old Hollis recalled in 2002 from an easy chair that dominated a corner of the living room. He motioned in the direction of a memory that hovered just over his shoulder. "This lady, Victoria Woodhull-ever heard of her? Ran for president and all that?-she came through and adopted him, sent him money and gave her name to
him: Spafford Woodhull. So that's how we got the name 'Woodhull.' These are not our real names. 'Stabler' is a German name. They just gave it to us."
As an adult, Spafford Woodhull had married an Omaha woman, Lucy Harlan, and together in 1885 they had born Eunice Victoria Woodhull, destined to be an exceptionally progressive Omaha woman whose accomplishments have been historically overshadowed by those of another significant Omaha woman, Susan La Flesche Picotte, who in 1889 became the first Native American woman to earn a medical degree. Picotte, in fact, was the only Indian ever appointed as a medical missionary by the Presbyterian Board of Home Missions.
November 12, 2012, written by his daughter, Wehnona Stabler
Five years ago today, one of Siouxland’s most decorated soldiers died at his home in Winnebago, Neb. On Sunday, family members reflected on his life while blessing his memory and his U.S. flag in a cedaring ceremony at the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center along Sioux City’s Riverfront. The event took place in the same city the late Hollis Dorian Stabler enlisted in the U.S. Army well over seven decades ago.
“My father didn’t go into the Army out of a great sense of patriotism,” said Stabler’s daughter, Wehnona Stabler of Pine Ridge, S.D. “He knew that by being in the military he’d be one less mouth to feed at home.” Her father’s parents would lose two children during World War II; one was a diabetic daughter, Marcella Stabler, whose life was cut short because the family couldn’t afford insulin; the other a son, Robert Stabler, who died in battle with his 3rd Infantry Division at Anzio, Italy. “My father saw Bob the night before he died,” Wehnona Stabler said. A member of Darby’s 4th Ranger Battalion at the time, Hollis Stabler heard his brother was serving nearby. He tracked him down and spent a night catching up. They separated the next
day. “My dad was serving and he was called back the following day to identify an Indian boy who’d been killed,” she said. “He told us he walked into this tent and saw several bodies that were covered. He didn’t need to see Bob’s face. He knew it was him when
he saw Bob’s Golden Gloves boxing ring.”
Hollis Stabler returned to action and would take gunfire through
his leg and foot. He was awarded the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star,
the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, the World War II Victory Medal, the Combat Infantry Medal and the French Freedom Medal in his 7-plus years of service, including 28 months of combat.
Stabler was with Darby’s Rangers until Dec. 5, 1944, and was
presented an honorable discharge before heading home. On his way home, he stepped off the train at Omaha, Neb., and ordered a beer and a burger at an Omaha eatery near Union Station. Police entered the establishment and informed him it was against the law for a restaurant to serve a Native American alcohol in Omaha. Stabler, a former tank commander fresh off six military campaigns that unfolded across three countries, dropped his beer on the floor and walked out.
Stabler, whose Omaha Indian name was Na-Zhing-Thia, or “Slow to
Rise,” would marry in 1944, graduate from college in 1950 and end up working for Boeing Aircraft and in education, as an art teacher. He was a founding director of the Mid-America All Indian Center in Wichita,
Kan. He returned to Siouxland in 1976, choosing to teach at Macy, Neb.
Two years before his death, he wrote an award-winning account of his life, “No One Ever Asked Me – The World War II Memories of an Omaha Indian.”
Sunday’s cedaring ceremony, conducted by Stabler’s grandson, Mark Merrick Jr., of Sioux City, was to be held in 2011. However, the Missouri River flood postponed the event. “It is an honor to be here today for my grandfather and our family,” said Merrick, a member of the U.S. Air Force from 1982-93.
“My father hitchhiked from Lawton, Okla., to Macy, Neb., in the late 1930s, when a minister’s wife gave him a ride to Sioux City,” Wehnona Stabler recounted. “He enlisted here. The Marines told him he’d need to gain 10 pounds, so he inquired with the Navy, but they were full. The Army ended up taking him.”
Stabler’s portrait and story of his remarkable World War II
service now graces the entrance to a Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center
exhibit, “World War II Veterans Remember Extraordinary Times.”
There is another tie for Stabler to the LCIC, beyond his Sioux City roots. Stabler, a member of the Black Shoulder Buffalo Clan of the Omaha Tribe, was the great-great-great-grandson of French trader Pierre Dorian, who lived with the Yankton Sioux and served as in interpreter for Lewis and Clark in 1804.
Merrick burned cedar and, with a feather, fanned the smoke around
Stabler’s daughter, other family members present, the veteran’s portrait and his U.S. flag. “In the burning of cedar, like incense
in the Catholic Church, we send the smoke toward heaven to call attention to God for our prayers,” Merrick said.