Courtesy Lillian Leno
Native Veteran Barry Leno after his traditional ponytail was cut off at nursing facility.

Native Veteran Has Traditional Long Hair Cut Off In Nursing Home

Vincent Schilling
2/7/15

A 65-year-old Native Vietnam veteran staying at the Ashland Rehabilitation Center and Nursing Facility in Ashland, Virginia has recently had his traditional long hair cut off without the permission of his family. Barry Leno, (Algonquin, Seneca) who has had his hair in a traditional ponytail for decades and suffers from dementia, cried when his wife arrived at the facility recently and asked what happened.

According to Leno’s wife, Lillian Leno, she went to visit her husband in the facility February 4 and discovered his hair was cut to above his shoulders. She said she was devastated to see her husband cry as he explained that his hair had been cut.

Barry Leno with his Ponytail in 2010

“I don’t know… (what happened,),” Lillian said. “I came in yesterday to visit him and his pony tail was cut off. We have been married 32 years and he has had it as long as that. I asked him what happened, he said ‘I don’t know,’ and he started crying. He said ‘they cut it off.”

Lillian says that at first no one would answer her questions as to why her husband’s hair was cut, but the following morning she received a phone call in which a nurse told her Barry had asked to have it cut off. She was furious that his hair had been cut without informing her, as she has Power of Attorney for all matters involving her husband.

Barry, says he was very upset by the matter. “I have no reason as to why they cut my hair,” he said. “I am not happy about it at all. My wife told me, ‘they cut your hair.’ I feel like shit about it if you have to know the truth. This is just awful.”

“If this was a hygiene thing they were doing, they would have shaved him too,” she said. “But I saw him and he had whiskers, and his face looks like it hasn’t been shaved in a few days.”

“I had so many mixed emotions yesterday. We have always talked about how he wanted to go to his grave with his ponytail. Now it is not there and we are just hoping it grows back. If anyone was to cut it off, it should be me to save it and it’s gone,” Lillian said.

“I’ve gone to look at another facility to get him moved, they are not sure if they are going to be able to take him,” she said.

Family friend and fellow veteran Odessa Maxwell says she as well as others in the Native and veteran communities are outraged that Barry, who has appeared in Time Life’s book, “The Vietnam Experience – Images of War,” had his haircut without his wife’s knowledge.

“He’s been at this home for a while. They cut his hair and they would not answer her questions,” said Maxwell. “So many of us in the veteran and Native American communities are outraged. I was like ‘really?’ You need to have sensitivity to other cultures.”  

According to Lillian, administrators at the facility claim they are sorry and that efforts will be made to accommodate patients, one review on Google+ states the following:

“This facility should be shut down immediately!!! My dad was sent there for rehab. He has not had a bath in the 45 days that he was there. He ended up getting a UTI that was left untreated. My dad has become septic and nearly died thanks to these neglectful people. I doubt that the staff would want their loved ones treated this way!!! You reap what you sow.”

In a formal attempt to obtain comments from the Ashland Rehabilitation Center, administrative representative Torri Robinson says they are not offering comments at this time.

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Comments

Two Bears Growling's picture
Two Bears Growling
Submitted by Two Bears Growling on
This is an outrage! I hope this warrior's wife gets ahold of their tribal lawyers & sues the pants out of this joke of a care home. ............................................................................................................................. This also reminds me of the outrage when Native children are taken from a Native home & put in a non-tribal foster home & the whites cut our children's hair off! ......................................................................................................................... I have heard from parents who have had this experience when their kids were taken out of the home & placed in these white folks foster homes. I think that is a religious violation issue & the tribal lawyers should go after these matters in this way. ......................................................................................................................... Too many of these white ran CFS agencies seem to think they are God & can do whatever they want with Native kids. They don't say a thing to these white foster homes for violating OUR Native rights. They always want to make an excuse as to why our Native kids aren't being taken to practice OUR religions, but they are all smiles when the foster parents drag OUR Native kids to those white man churches to get "saved". The only thing we need "saved" from is the hostility & willful ignorance displayed against we Native people, OUR children & OUR families. ......................................................................................................................... Our Native children do NOT need drugged up on Rx meds & thrown in mental facilities. They need to heal through OUR Native ways & religious beliefs. They need their elders, medicine healers & sweat lodges to do what OUR peoples have done since the Creator put us on this earth in the beginning.

Albert Brule
Submitted by Albert Brule on
What this amounts to is a hate crime. This veteran has the UN on his side. Pursue all legal means. This is an assault on the person and on his family as they have power of attorney. Consent was not given. His honor has been violated.

Mathew Sayre
Submitted by Mathew Sayre on
i think they do need to respect the Indian Culturals and believes they had no right cutting the mans ponytail off without his wife knowing about it they should shut that facility down for that

Deneze C Lujanen
Submitted by Deneze C Lujanen on
that is so sad.. now you cant bring back his pony tail so what to do about what they did.. they shouldnt even touch a hair on any ones head with out the familys permission..

Sissy Eversole
Submitted by Sissy Eversole on
I don't care if you are native american , white , black ,purple, or pink what they did is wrong and fefinitely in violation of his rights . I bet they don't treat all vietnam vets this way !!!!!

Sissy Eversole
Submitted by Sissy Eversole on
I don't care if you are native american , white , black ,purple, or pink what they did is wrong and fefinitely in violation of his rights . I bet they don't treat all vietnam vets this way !!!!!

Ena's picture
Ena
Submitted by Ena on
Lillian SUE them and take nothing less than what you and your family deserve. Take all of it and own that place! How dare they!!!!!!!!!!!! It took them that long to come up with a lame lie! It's not just hair it's our heritage!

Betty Masterson
Submitted by Betty Masterson on
wrong wrong wrong! let the man keep his hair! his family should sue them!!!! i dont believe in suing people but this is totally unethical!

Betty Masterson
Submitted by Betty Masterson on
wrong wrong wrong! let the man keep his hair! his family should sue them!!!! i dont believe in suing people but this is totally unethical!
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