In August 1990, President George H. W. Bush declared November 1990 “National American Indian Heritage Month.” Since 1994, presidents have issued similar proclamations naming November “Native American Heritage Month” or “National American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month” and have set aside this month as a time to celebrate the culture and traditions of our Native Americans and Alaska Natives.
As of January 2021, the United States recognizes 574 Native American Tribes, three of them located in Texas. Throughout our history Native Americans have made significant contributions to our armed forces, serving at the highest per-capita rate of any demographic in our country.
During World War I, approximately 12,000 Native American men volunteered or were drafted in support of the war effort. Native American women supported the war effort at home as well, volunteering with the Red Cross and donating time and money. Four Native Americans received the Croix de Guerre from France.
During World War II, more than 44,000 Native Americans served in our armed forces, about 12% of the Native American population. Many Native Americans served as cryptologists, or “code talkers”, who used their native languages to send coded messages between units, creating an undecipherable communication method. During this time, Native Americans distinguished themselves by earning Air Medals, Distinguished Flying Crosses, Bronze Stars, Silver Stars and Medals of Honor.
Approximately 10,000 Native Americans served in the military during the Korean War and more than 42,000 served during the Vietnam War. Native Americans have also served with honor and distinction in Grenada, Panama, Desert Storm, Somalia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq, and Afghanistan.
In total, 29 Native Americans have earned the Medal of Honor.
This November we recognize the contributions and celebrate the service of over 150,000 veterans of Native American descent. American Indian and Alaska Native Soldiers have served with honor, dedication, and distinction. Their legacy of courage, professionalism and selfless service continues to inspire our Soldiers today, as it has for generations.
Want to learn more about Native American culture? Visit a Pow Wow! The “Honoring our Nation’s Veteran’s Pow Wow” is happening in Cibolo (Northeast of San Antonio) from Nov. 19-21. Admission is free and it’s open to the public.