Not only is November Native American Heritage Month, but it is also the month when we honor our veterans. The intersection may be accidental, but it is apt. Native Americans, Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians volunteer to serve in the United States Armed Forces at a higher ratio than any other ethnic group, and their communities honor the service of their veterans. “War Department officials have stated that during WWII, if the entire population had enlisted at the same rate American Indians did, Selective Service would have been unnecessary. According to the Selective Service in 1942, at least 99 percent of all eligible Indians, healthy males aged 21 to 44, had registered for the draft.”
On Veterans Day, November 11, the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) unveiled its new monument, the National Native Americans Veterans Memorial. Plans for this memorial started in 1994. In 2013, Congress authorized the construction of this memorial. In every major conflict involving the United States, including World War I, World War II, the Korean and Vietnam wars, Grenada, Panama, Somalia, the Gulf War, Afghanistan, and Iraq, Native Americans showed their bravery and their love of their land. As we know, were it not for the Navajo code talkers in WWII, the United States would not have taken Iwo Jima; the code talkers’ work was critical to winning WWII. Over 20 Native Americans have won the Medal of Honor. The service record of Native Americans, Alaskan Natives, and Native Hawaiians is outstanding.
“The National Native American Veterans Memorial will serve as a reminder to the nation and the world of the service and sacrifice of Native American, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian veterans,” said Kevin Gover, director of the museum. “Native Americans have always answered the call to serve, and this memorial is a fitting tribute to their patriotism and deep commitment to this country.”
Native Americans in the First World War and the Fight For Citizenship.
Indian Citizenship Act, Today in History, June 2.
Act of June 2, 1924, Public Law 68-175, 43 STAT 253, to Authorize the Secretary of the Interior to Issue Certificates of Citizenship to Indians.
Indigenous Veterans interviews, Veterans History Project, American Folklife Center, Library of Congress.
Navajo Code Talkers Project, Veterans History Project, American Folklife Center, Library of Congress.