The month is almost half over, but perhaps others like myself have yet to hear about the November Native American Heritage Month declaration. Also, like many I have heard little over the years about the efforts of Native Americans in defending and supporting our war efforts.
As part Native American myself, these stories of valor and courage touch my heart and bring to the fore how often despite attitudes, Native Americans have done their best to participate. Perhaps you can call me prejudiced,, but these are groups of tribes and people who may not have ever been labeled “slaves” but certainly were wronged on many levels long before and after Black Americans.
Native American natural remedies saved many lives of those who lived around them. Native American survival training and guiding were essential to those who came to the shores and interior. The Native American respect of spirit and the natural world was absorbed by those who arrived though the lessons soon were overcome by the influx of religion and distortion of rights. Yet even today the core elders around the country are trying very hard to renew and ground their young in the stories and heritage of a nearly forgotten or ignored culture and prosperous group of people who lived on this continent long before Europeans arrived and “civilized” and colonized it.
The stalwartness and actions of Native Americans during wars and other engagements have not often been acknowledged or spoken of during history lessons. So to see that there is now a month of respect and remembrance is heartwarming. I truly hope those with even an ounce of Native American ancestry take a moment to reflect and to honor their spirit and their actions. They have over the years endured often silently the attacks against their faith, their way of life, and their persons.
Many elders are striving to continue the heritage of their tribes and the Native American culture as you can see in this clip….Not only is it adorable (sorry guys but this is me, grandma, speaking), but just think how it is continuing the traditions and keeping history alive.
Well here is only a little taste of what Native Americans did to participate and to safeguard our lands.
Founding Fathers, Constitution, and Iroquois Constitution
There was a debate that historically the Iroquois Constitution may have affected the wording in the US Constitution. There are similarities and differences between the Iroquois Constitution (verbal only) and the US Constitution. The Iroquois Constitution had been formed and faithfully remembered for at least a hundred or more years before Europeans came to the US shores. While there are learned discussions for and against, it is evident that some kind of correlation can be found. Greydeer wrote a post which examined the differences and similarities. This is one among many views and seems to be a good source.
On June 11, 1776 while the question of independence was being debated, the visiting Iroquois chiefs were formally invited into the meeting hall of the Continental Congress. Perhaps during those speeches something clicked in the minds of the founding fathers and helped them firm up their ideas for the Declaration of Independence and later the Constitution.
The Civil War
In 1862, several Indian Home Guard Regiments were organized and expedited in Indian territories and utilized for several years by the Union Army during the Civil War. Statistics show just fewer than 3,600 Native Americans served in the Union Army during the war.
When World War I started, American Indians were not considered U.S. citizens, but that did not stop approximately 12,000 Natives from volunteering to serve in the U.S. military. In addition, four American Indian soldiers serving in the 142nd Infantry of the 36th Texas-Oklahoma National Guard Division received the Croix de Guerre medal from France.
During WWI, 14 American Indian women served in the Army Nurse Corps, with two of them serving overseas. Mrs. Cora E. Sinnard, (Oneida) and Charlotte Edith (Anderson) Monture (Mohawk) both served as Army Nurses in France at a military hospital to lend their skills toward the war efforts overseas. Monture, who referred to her service as ‘the adventure of a lifetime,” died in 1996 at the age of 106.
Patriot Nations Exhibit at Fort Snelling: General Douglas MacArthur, commander-in-chief of the Allied forces in the South Pacific, on an inspection trip of American battle fronts, late 1943. From left: Staff Sergeant Virgil Brown (Pima), First Sergeant Virgil F. Howell (Pawnee), Staff Sergeant Alvin J. Vilcan (Chitimacha), General MacArthur, Sergeant Byron L. Tsingine (Diné [Navajo]), Sergeant Larry Dekin (Diné [Navajo]). U.S. Army Signal Corps.
Many Native Americans voluntarily joined the war effort after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Unknown to many, the Iroquois Confederacy had long held a grudge against the country of Germany. They jumped at the chance to fight the oppressive Nazis. They were willing to overlook the past conflicts with the American government. Instead, they would fight alongside white men to defeat a greater evil in what they called the white man’s war.
Their participation was greatly appreciated and was seen as a tremendous show of loyalty and cooperation. Even the most typically standoffish and reclusive tribes sent men to represent them in the war. There was no need to be drafted. In fact, many tribes saw it as disrespectful and shameful to even need to be drafted. They thought their warriors should be compelled to participate of their own free will. By 1945, ninety-nine percent of all draft eligible Native Americans had registered.
By the end of the WWII, 24,521 reservation Indians and another 20,000 off-reservation Indians had served in the military effort – or 10 percent of the American Indian population. This combined figure of 44,500 represented one-third of all able-bodied Indian men from 18 to 50 years of age. In some tribes, the percentage of men in the military reached as high as 70 percent.
The War Effort Abroad
By the time the war ended, 44,000 had participated. Men were not the only Native Americans to serve, though. Native American women also contributed through participation as nurses and other areas open to women at the time.
Native American soldiers were very welcome among the Marine Corps. These hardened soldiers respected the Native Americans’ tenacity and courage. It was here the Navajos first started working in coding. They even invented their own words for common military and naval terms. By the end of the war, more than 400 Navajo People served in this way.
As well as their coding skills, many were also excellent in hand-to-hand combat, shooting and had excellent endurance, much more so than the average American soldier. Many fought in the Pacific and central Europe, where these skills were necessary, but also as far away as Australia.
Throughout WWII, nearly 800 American Indian women served in the U.S. military. Elva (Tapedo) Wale, Kiowa; Corporal Bernice (Firstshoot) Bailey of Lodge Pole, Montana, Beatrice (Coffey) Thayer and Alida (Whipple) Fletcher are just a few of the servicewomen that served during WWII. These brave women served with such units as the Army Corps, the Army Nurse Corps and as WAVES, ‘Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service.’
The War Effort at Home
Even on the reservations, Native Americans supported the war effort the best they could. A large percentage bought treasury stamps and war bonds, and also made donations to the Red Cross. In fact, it’s estimated Native Americans bought approximately $50 million in war bonds. Those who were unable to enlist also helped in constructing depots needed for the troops, including the Naval Supply Depot in Utah.
Just as American women took on men’s roles in factories and at home, Native American women learned to act as everything from mechanics to farmers to factory workers. When not working to support their men on the front lines, they were volunteering by sewing uniforms and other needed supplies and canning food to be shipped to troops.
KWETHLUK, Alaska, Nov. 16, 2017 — When the Japanese raided and occupied parts of Alaska during World War II, the Army called on native Alaskans to defend the northern territory.
Given no pay, more than 6,300 Alaskans from 12 to 80 years old signed on to be sentries for the newly created Alaska Territorial Guard.
“They volunteered, some of them as young as 12, to guard the people of western Alaska. There was no military presence here,” said Stanley Rodgers, a former Army sergeant who served in the Vietnam War.
Once enlisted, the Alaskan natives trained on Army tactics so they could defend the territory from an attack, if needed. They even made decoys using barrels and logs to resemble cannons to Japanese aircraft flying overhead.
Years later, Marston wrote in his book, “Men of the Tundra: Alaska Eskimos at War,” that the scouts proved helpful in safeguarding terrain around the lend-lease air route, which the United States used to supply aircraft to its Russian ally.
They also secured Platinum, an Alaskan village south of Kwethluk, which was the only source of the strategic metal with the same name in the Western Hemisphere. In addition, he wrote, they stockpiled survival caches along vital transportation routes.
It is sad that people in the US or around the world have yet to understand — it is not race, color, or creed that makes up the spirit, patriotism, and beliefs found in our country. Rather it is the melding of many cultures, of many races, of many beliefs into one constantly evolving living entity.
It is the HEART, the SOUL, and the HONOR to be part of a vast land where freedom was allowed to blossom from its earliest days without the interference of kings or oppressive governments. Where living though difficult at times was still an act of faith whether the ultimate creator was named God, Great Spirit, Nature, or Father. It permeated every moment and action taken.
To those like me of mixed cultures…never forget your roots, celebrate and honor them. But at the same time remember we are the caretakers of today and must nurture the future roots of our nation’s children through actions and activities.
Freedom isn’t free. It involves everyone remembering and learning from the past, applying and refining today’s life actions, and teaching as living examples and educators a BETTER patriotic sovereign nation for tomorrow. The past was no where near perfect but we can pray and work toward a more perfect union unlike many countries of the world. The problem is there are those elements that are doing everything they can to tear down progress we have made and divide in order to conquer this country. Hold fast. Nothing is perfect but if we do not strive, nothing will ever get any closer to perfect.
Osiyo…..Wado udohiyu utsati . (Cherokee)
(I hope I got this wording right–using a translator is not always perfect.
Hello (all is well) and thank you very much is what I meant to say.)