National Museum of the American Indian
4th Street and Independence Avenue, SW
Potomac Atrium, 1st Level Floor Plan
On view are 15 large-scale banners that reveal the little-known but crucial role Native Americans played during World Wars I and II. Native Americans were remarkable soldiers from more than a dozen tribes who used their Native languages while in service to the U.S. military. Even though American Indians were not considered U.S. citizens until 1942, they were enlisted into the military to relay messages in their Native languages during World Wars I and II. The best known is the formerly classified Navajo Code Talker Program, established by the U.S. Marine Corps in September 1942. Their encoded messages were fast and accurate, and could not be deciphered by the enemy. Many of these warriors had been punished for speaking their Native languages while in Indian boarding schools, but then used those same languages to make significant contributions to America's victory in two World Wars.