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Service with distinction

By Christy Porter, Managing Editor

Indigenous people have been defending themselves, their land, and eventually the United States of America since before the 1700s. They have participated in conflicts for and against different nationalities since the white man settled in this country.

Even prior to official U.S. citizenship in 1924, Native Americans have served the United States in the armed forces.

During the War of 1812, the Cherokees allied with the Americans when the Creek nation fought against white domination. At the Battle of Horseshoe Bend, a Cherokee soldier saved the life of Andrew Jackson, then a commissioned officer in the U.S. Army.

They served in the Civil War, both with the Confederacy and the Union, and their struggle continued through the 1800s in the western U.S. during the Indian wars.

While Native Americans were relocated from their territories and suffered many hardships, they continued to adapt and remain strong in their beliefs and heritage.

Transition of a Native American language to a greater population began when Sequoyah completed the 85-character syllabary of the Cherokee language in 1821; thus allowing the Cherokee nation to communicate regardless of location. The first issue of the Cherokee Phoenix, a national, bilingual Cherokee newspaper was published in 1828.

In 1924, with the Indian Citizenship Act, Congress conferred U. S. citizenship and granted voting rights to all Native Americans born in the country’s territorial limits. They may actively hold dual citizenship, both tribal and as U.S. citizens.

The Choctaws were the first code talkers; their native language became the “unbreakable communications code” via telegraph and telephone lines during WWI. Major military successes were accomplished due to the Germans not being able to prepare for American assaults. Also known for their bravery, marksmanship and night patrol skills, more than 9,000 Native Americans, from 60 different tribes, contributed greatly to the allied victory in Europe.

During WWII Navajo code talkers played a critical role in the Pacific campaign. The extremely complex, unwritten Navajo language, with no alphabet or symbols, made it the perfect undecipherable code. The approximately 50,000 Navajo tribe members serving were also praised for their skill, speed and accuracy.

“Were it not for the Navajos, the Marines would never have taken Iwo Jima,” stated Marine Major Howard Connor.

The Navajo code talkers also participated in the Korean War and part of the Vietnam War.

In recognition of Native American service, Army Regulation 70-28 was implemented in 1969, It stated that Army aircraft were to be given Native American terms and names of tribes and chiefs, as provided by The Bureau of Indian Affairs. Even when AR 70-28 was replaced by other policies, the naming tradition continued. Many helicopter names are easily recognizable, H-13 Sioux, Hughes OH-6 Cayuse, UH-1 Iroquois “Huey,” UH-60 Blackhawk, UH-72 Lakota, CH-37 Mojave “Deuce,” CH-47 Chinook, OH-58 Kiowa, AH-56 Cheyenne, AH-64 Apache, RAH-66 Comanche and the ARH-70 Arapaho.

The Native American tribes also recognize and support their members who serve in the armed forces and the veterans who have served.

Native Americans, both men and women, have continually enlisted, volunteered, and served with bravery and dignity throughout the years and the conflicts to preserve the United States of America and their heritage.

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