Honoring Native American Veterans

Native Americans have a proud tradition of service in the armed forces. Did you know:

  • Native Americans have the highest rate of military service of any ethnic group in the U.S.
  • About 200,000 have served – roughly triple the rate of service in the non-Native population.
  • Native Americans have served with distinction for over 200 years.
  • Native Americans are often motivated to military service for cultural reasons.
U.S. Army Veterans & Color Guards. Copyright NRC and PWNA. All rights reserved.

U.S. Army Veterans & Color Guards. Copyright NRC and PWNA. All rights reserved.

Some of you may find this extraordinary or at least interesting given the harsh realities of U.S./American Indian history. More than 10,000 Native men volunteered to serve during WWI despite the fact that most were not U.S. “citizens” at the time and were unprotected under the Constitution. In WWII, Natives had the highest rate of service at a time when patronizing businesses in reservation border towns was prohibited for American Indians.

Their extraordinary level of military service stems from diverse and deeply rooted aspects of Native American culture. In the 2007 PBS documentary, “Way of the Warrior,” Patty Loew interviewed Native American veterans on their experiences and found some were compelled to serve out of patriotism, others out of clan obligations, cultural mores, family tradition and treaty obligations. One veteran told Loew he enlisted because his tribe signed a ‘peace and friendship’ treaty with the U.S. in 1827 and promised to come to the military’s aid if ever needed. Despite the fact that the U.S. had broken every promise made to his people, his tribe was still honoring the treaty they signed. Others discussed the deeper, uniquely cultural meaning behind their desire to serve in the armed forces, such as honoring the warrior tradition of facing any challenge.

Northern Cheyenne Morning Star Chapter - Copyright NRC and PWNA. All rights reserved.

Northern Cheyenne Morning Star Chapter – Copyright NRC and PWNA. All rights reserved.

Many tribes were involved in the War of 1812 and during the Civil War, American Indians fought for both sides as auxiliary troops. Nearly 45,000 American Indians, 90 percent volunteers, served in the Vietnam War. Contemporary service rates are also very high, with thousands of Native men and women serving on the front lines in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other conflict areas around the world, and continuing to serve with distinction. Native Americans have served in all branches, receiving medals for valor, including the Medal of Honor, Purple Hearts, Air Medals, Distinguished Flying Crosses, Bronze Stars, Silver Stars, Distinguished Service Crosses, and Congressional Medals of Honor. The Navajo Code Talkers played a central role in the U.S. victory in WWII and the infamous Pima Indian, Marine Pfc. Ira Hayes, helped raise the American flag on Iwo Jima.

We wish to honor all of our Native American veterans on Veterans Day, along with their fellow veterans, so that they know there are those who care about their service and their sacrifice.

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6 Comments

  1. Posted November 10, 2015 at 10:30 pm | Permalink

    My mother taught me many years ago about the Code Talkers & how important they were to this country. I had the opportunity to meet a few of them at the National Museum of the Marine Corps and they were so kind & appreciatiative of my interest. Thank you for educating us & thank you to all the Code Talkers for what they did for our country.

  2. Posted November 11, 2015 at 12:08 am | Permalink

    So proud & thankful

  3. Carol
    Posted November 10, 2015 at 6:36 pm | Permalink

    THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE AND, YOUR SACRAFICES, GOD BLESS YOU ALL!!
    You are very much appreciated , this should have been said a good many years ago!

  4. Posted November 11, 2015 at 3:14 am | Permalink

    So very proud and thankful for their service

  5. Posted November 12, 2015 at 1:13 am | Permalink

    It is one of the few thigs that I know that Native Aemricans out voluteer everyoe else whe it coes to military service. As a vet myslf I appreciate it.

  6. Nicholas & Claire
    Posted May 27, 2016 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

    Our uncles fought in WWII in the European and Pacific areas. Those who served in the Pacific often spoke of the Native American Code Talkers and the major contributions they made. We thank you for the sacrifices you made in your service to our country and may the Great Spirit Bless you.

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