Wednesday, July 4, 2007
On January 24, 1955, Hayes was found dead, face down and lying in his own vomit and blood, near an abandoned hut close to his home on the Gila River Indian Reservation. He had been drinking and playing cards with several other men, including his brothers Kenny and Vernon, and another fellow Pima Indian named Henry Setoyant, with whom an argument developed during which the two men scuffled. Shortly afterward, the card game broke up, and all but Hayes and Setoyant left. The coroner concluded that Hayes's death was due to both exposure and alcohol. However, his brother Kenny remained convinced that the death somehow resulted from the scuffle with Setoyant. There was no police investigation, and Setoyant denied any allegations that he scuffled with Hayes after all the players left for the night. Ira Hayes was 32.
Hayes is buried in Section 34 of Arlington National Cemetery. At the funeral, fellow flag-raiser Rene Gagnon said of him: "Let's say he had a little dream in his heart that someday the Indian would be like the white man — be able to walk all over the United States."