Why We Serve: Native Americans in the United States Armed Forces

November 11, 2020 – Indefinitely

The Native American Women Warriors leading the grand entry during a powwow in Pueblo, Colorado, June 14, 2014. From left: Sergeant First Class Mitchelene BigMan (Apsáalooke [Crow]/Hidatsa), Sergeant Lisa Marshall (Cheyenne River Sioux), Specialist Krissy Quinones (Apsáalooke), and Captain Calley Cloud (Apsáalooke), with Tia Cyrus (Apsáalooke) behind them. The organization, founded by BigMan in 2012, raises awareness about Native American women veterans and provides resources for support services in health, employment, and education. © 2014, Nicole Tung

Why We Serve honors the generations of Native Americans who have served in the armed forces of the United States—often in extraordinary numbers—since the American Revolution. 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? 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. Why We Serve commemorates the National Native American Veterans Memorial, dedicated at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C.