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WWI - American Indian Soldiers

American Indians have a long history of participation in the U.S. military. American Indians served with distinction in the War of 1812 and the Civil War, among other military actions. World War I was no exception. More than 10,000 Indians served in the Great War. This number represented approximately 20 percent of the entire Indian adult male population. American Indians fought in every major offensive of the war, even though many of them were not even U.S. citizens at the onset of the war, as citizenship was only granted to “naturalized” Indians and members of federally recognized tribes.

Their reasons for fighting were manifold. In the first place, American Indian culture has always valued and revered the proud warrior. Also, the federal boarding schools attended by many young Indians in the late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century emphasized patriotism and military training. Young Indian men wished to demonstrate loyalty to their country by serving to protect it. Furthermore, many Indians hoped that their dedicated service would bring about greater justice for their people.

At least ten American Indians received the Croix de Guerre for valor in the Great War and 150 other soldiers were decorated for meritorious service. The distinguished service of American Indian veterans also contributed to all Indians' being granted U.S. citizenship in 1924.