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History Of Native Americans In The Military

The month of November is National Native American Heritage Month. Veteran Voices For Fibromyalgia Founder, Kristal Kent, is a descendant of the Sioux Tribe, of the Lakota Nation. Her Great Great Grandmother was 100% Sioux. Kristal's Native American relatives, were part of the success of winning The Battle of the Little Bighorn which is also known as Custard's Last Stand. In honor of National Native American Heritage Month, here is a little history and facts about our fellow Native American Military Service Members and Veterans:

Battle of the Little Bighorn, known to the Lakota and other Plains Native Americans as the Battle of the Greasy Grass, and commonly referred by Non-Native Americans as Custer's Last Stand, was an armed engagement between combined forces of the Lakota Sioux, Northern Cheyenne, and Arapaho tribes and the 7th Cavalry Regiment of the United States Army. The battle, which resulted in the defeat of U.S. forces, was the most significant action of the Great Sioux War of 1876. It took place on June 25–26, 1876, along the Little Bighorn River in the Crow Indian Reservation in southeastern Montana Territory. The fight was an overwhelming victory for the Lakota, Northern Cheyenne, and Arapaho, who were led by several major war leaders, including Crazy Horse and Chief Gall, and had been inspired by the visions of Sitting Bull (Tȟatȟáŋka Íyotake). The U.S. 7th Cavalry, a force of 700 men, suffered a major defeat while commanded by Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer (formerly a brevetted major general during the American Civil War). Five of the 7th Cavalry's twelve companies were annihilated and Custer was killed, as were two of his brothers, a nephew, and a brother-in-law. The total U.S. casualty count included 268 dead and 55 severely wounded (6 later died from their battle wounds), 244  Native Americans, including four Crow and two Arikara Native American Army scouts were killed in battle.


  • Military Service of Native Americans dates back to the Revolutionary War: Despite an often-troubled relationship with the government of the United States, Native Americans have played a major role in the military history of the United States, with military service dating to the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, years before Native Americans would be recognized as US citizens. Statistics show Native Americans have volunteered and served in higher percentages than any other ethnicity group. Their special skills and warrior culture have resulted in pivotal benefits and victories for the US Armed Forces, along with many Native Americans receiving Military honors of recognition and medals.

  • A higher percentage of Native Americans served post-9/11 than any other ethnicity: After 9/11, almost 19% of Native Americans served in the Armed Forces, compared to 14% of other ethnicities. Currently, there are more than 31,000 Native American and Alaska Native men and women, who are on active duty today. Despite not being officially recognized at the time as United States Citizens, approximately 12,000 Native Americans served in WWI. During WWII, the population of Native Americans was less than 350,000. However, 44,000 Native Americans served in World War II. Further, 42,000 Native Americans served in the Vietnam War, 90% of whom volunteered. Today, there are an estimated 140,000 Native American Veterans (living), many of whom are Purple Heart recipients, Bronze Star medal honorees, and Congressional Medal of Honor recipients, which is the highest military award of the United States.

  • Native American Women have played an important role from the birth of the United States: Female Native American Veterans have been an integral part of the US military history, dating back to the American Revolution. Historians recently discovered and verified the actions of an Oneida woman, Tyonajanegen, at the battle of Oriskany during the American Revolution (1775-1783). Tyonajanegen was married to an American Army officer of Dutch descent and fought at her husband’s side on horseback during the battle, reloading his gun for him after he was shot in the wrist. During WWI, 14 Native American Women served in the Army Nurse Corps, with two of them serving overseas. Throughout WWII, nearly 800 Native American Women served with units like the Army Corps, the Army Nurse Corps, WAVES and WASPS. Today 11.5% of living Native American Veterans are female, compared to 8% of other ethnicities.

  • The VA supports programs specific to Native American Veterans: According to the Department of Defense, Native Americans and Alaska Natives have one of the highest representations in the armed forces. The US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) consults with American Indian and Alaska Native tribal governments to develop partnerships to enhance access to services and benefits for Native American Veterans and their families. In addition to the regular benefits available to all U.S. veterans, Native American Veterans may be eligible for the Native American Direct Loan (NADL) Program which helps finance the purchase, construction, or improvement of homes on Federal Trust Land or reduce the interest rate on a VA loan. In addition, the VA Office of Tribal Government Relations (OTGR) consults with Native American and Alaska Native tribal governments to develop partnerships that help educate and train Tribal leaders and Veteran Service Organizations to increase access to VA Healthcare, services, and benefits for Native American Veterans and their families.

  • More than 30 other tribes served as Code Talkers, in addition to the Navajo Tribe: Despite not becoming US citizens until June 2, 1924, Native Americans were utilized by the Military as code talkers, starting on October 17, 1918 during World War I. Native American Code Talkers serving during WWI was only 24 years after the Battle of the Little Big Horn battle. In 2000, Navajo Code Talkers were honored with Congressional Medals for their services in developing and implementing their traditional Dine’ language, as a secret code of communication on the battlefields in both WWI and WWII. Their story was later told in the award-winning feature film, Wind Talkers. However, many Americans do not know that members of 32 other Native American Tribes served as code talkers during World War I and World War II. Unfortunately, the Native American Code Talkers from the other 32 Tribes, have never been formally recognized for their service to the country. Tribes serving as code talkers during both the Pacific and European campaigns included: Comanche, Cheyenne, Cherokee, Osage, Lakota, Dakota, Chippewa, Oneida, Sac and Fox, Meskwaki, Hopi, Assiniboine, Kiowa, Pawnee, Akwesasne, Menominee, Creek, Cree Seminole Tribes, Navajo and other unlisted tribes. During World War II, additional tribes aided in the code talker efforts, including many Sioux tribes of the Lakota Nation which were the Oglala Sioux Tribe, Rosebud Sioux Tribe, Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, Lower Brule Sioux Tribe, Crow Creek Sioux Tribe, Sisseton Wahpeton Sioux Tribe, and Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe.

  • OLA MILDRED REXROAT (August 28, 1917 – June 28, 2017) was the first and only Native American woman who served in the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP).

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