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Why We Serve

November 9, 2021

Veterans Day falls within Native American Heritage Month. This week is an appropriate time to acknowledge the long history of Native American military service that dates as far back as the Revolutionary War. During the Vietnam War 42,000 Native Americans served and 90% of them were volunteers.

For some, the Indigenous commitment to the U.S. military doesn’t make sense. Why would Indians serve a country that overran their homelands, suppressed their cultures, and confined them to reservations? The Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian states: “Native people have served for the same reasons as anyone else: to demonstrate patriotism or pursue employment, education, or adventure. Many were drafted. Yet tribal warrior traditions, treaty commitments with the United States, and responsibility for defending Native homelands have also inspired the enduring legacy of Indigenous military service.”

American Indians and Alaska Natives serve in the Armed Forces at a much higher per capita rate than the rest of the U.S. population. They also have a higher rate of women who become service members. Tragically, American Indians and Alaska Native veterans have lower incomes, higher unemployment rates, and a lower education level than other veterans.

2021 Native Cinema Showcase, Nov. 12-18