November is Native American Heritage Month, a time to celebrate the cultures, histories, traditions, and achievements of Native people. We also honor veterans this month, on November 11. This is the perfect time to honor the Native Americans who have fought for the United States in every major American war since the Revolutionary War. They volunteered to fight in World War I despite the fact that the United States Congress did not grant citizenship to all Native Americans until 1924. They have continued to serve and to honor the Native tradition of protecting their land and their people.
Perhaps the most famous Native American veterans are the code talkers. During World War I, Choctaw soldiers transmitted battle messages by telephone in order to secure communications from German intelligence who were tapping phone lines. This tactic was repeated during World War II. Comanches, Choctaws, Hopis and Cherokees transmitted messages in their native languages. The U.S. Marine Corps recruited Navajos to create a complicated secret code using the Navajo language and word substitution. This code had to be committed to memory and had to be transmitted under great pressure. The Navajos served with the Marines in the Pacific Theater, transmitting messages. Six Navajo code talkers worked round the clock during the Battle of Iwo Jima, transmitting messages without error. The Navajo code was never broken by the Japanese, and the code talkers were widely credited for helping to secure the American victory at Iwo Jima.
Numerous Native Americans have been awarded the Medal of Honor, the military’s highest decoration. Medal of Honor recipients show extreme courage and self-sacrifice at risk of their own life, beyond the call of duty. One of these heroes was Corporal Mitchell Red Cloud, a Winnebago from Wisconsin. Red Cloud served with Company E in the Korean War. One dark night in 1950, Red Cloud was maintaining a listening post atop a ridge. Chinese forces snuck up on Company E from the rear, killing many soldiers in their sleep. Red Cloud sounded the first alarm and began firing at approaching troops. He was eventually shot and fell wounded. Refusing help, he got up and continued firing at Chinese troops until he was killed. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his bravery and for preventing the enemy from overrunning Company E. The anniversary of Red Cloud’s death falls during this month, on November 5. Mitchell Red Cloud is just one of many Native American veterans who deserve to be remembered and recognized.
- American Indians and World War II: Towards a New Era in Indian Affairs by Alison Berstein
- American Indians in World War I: At Home and at War by Thomas Britten
- The American Revolution in Indian Country by Colin Calloway
- Medicine Bags and Dog Tags : American Indian Veterans from Colonial Times to the Second Iraq War by Al Carroll
- The Cherokee Nation In the Civil War by Clarissa Confer
- Moon Dash Warrior: The Story of an American Indian in Vietnam by Delano Cummings
- Unsung Heroes of World War II: The Story of the Navajo Code Talkers by Deanne Durrett
- Crossing The Pond: The Native American Effort in World War II by Jere Bishop Franco
- Stand Watie and the Agony of the Cherokee Nation by Kenny Franks
- A Creek Warrior for the Confederacy: The Autobiography of Chief G.W. Grayson by G.W. Grayson
- Between Two Fires: American Indians in the Civil War by Laurence Hauptman
- The Iroquois in the Civil War by Laurence Hauptman
- Strong Hearts, Wounded Souls: Native American Veterans of the Vietnam War by Tom Holm
- Code Talker by Chester Nez
- Navajo Code Talkers by Doris Atkinson Paul
- Native Americans in the American Revolution by Ethan A. Schmidt
- No One Ever Asked Me: The World War II Memoirs of an Omaha Indian Soldier by Hollis Dorion Stabler
- Year In Nam: A Native American Soldier’s Story by Leroy TeCue
- Sea Of Thunder: Four Commanders and The Last Great Naval Campaign, 1941-1945 by Evan Thomas
- Ben Nighthorse Campbell: An American Warrior by Herman J. Viola