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WOLF POINT (AP) – An Assiniboine Indian who was wounded while serving as a scout for the U.S. Army in 1870 will finally receive military funeral honors, more than 90 years after he died.

The Saturday service for Owl Headdress, complete with an honor guard, is the result of efforts by his great-grandson, Sheldon Headdress, who believed that his ancestor’s sacrifice deserved recognition.

“It just seemed to me that because he served in the military and was wounded, he deserved a proper military burial,” Sheldon Headdress said Tuesday. “My family really wanted to see that happen.”

Owl Headdress, who was born near Wolf Point in 1842, was partially blinded by cannon fire while serving at Fort Buford, near Williston, N.D. He was helping defend the fort from an Indian attack when an Army cannon shell burst near him, Sheldon Headdress said.

Despite the injury, Owl Headdress was turned down for military benefits after his discharge. He died of natural causes in 1908 and was buried in a simple grave with only a small, wooden marker.

“The War Department’s reply was, in all this legal jargon, that because he was an Indian and so on, he was entitled to nothing,” his great-grandson said.

Headdress’ family was required to move his body sometime in the 1950s to make room for U.S. Highway 2, which was being built across northern North Dakota.

Sheldon Headdress, a facilities manager for the Fort Peck Tribe, found his great-grandfather’s discharge papers about 10 years ago, hidden inside a picture frame in his father’s house.

With help from local veterans groups, Headdress applied to the Veterans Administration for a military headstone for his great-grandfather’s grave at the Chicken Hill Cemetery outside Wolf Point. The headstone was installed last October.

Headdress then requested a military service for his great-grandfather, which the VA also approved.

Saturday’s service at Headdress’ grave will include a 21-gun salute by members of a Veterans of Foreign Wars post.

Headdress said his next goal is to convince curators at Fort Buford, now a historical site in North Dakota, to remove a gravestone there suggesting that his great-grandfather was beaten to death at the fort in 1870.

“Well, we know that’s not true because he was writing letters to the War Department as late as 1900,” Headdress said. “We don’t know where they got that he was beaten to death. … But we’d just like to have them take it out.”

Copyright © 2001, Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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