Most non-American Indians graduate from high school knowing very little about the people who had a major impact on American history as we know it today. Peruse a public high school textbook of the past 50 years to see what is missing. They have been, and continue to be, written as though the American Indian tribes have been insignificant to the total knowledge of this country’s story.
One of those missing items concerns American Indians and American wars. Prior to and during the American Revolution and the War of 1812, we know that some tribes remained neutral while others chose sides seeking a desirable advantage for themselves.
During World War I, thousands of American Indian males entered the various military branches even though they were not U.S. citizens at the time. American Indians would have to wait until 1924 for citizenship. Tens of thousands would serve in WWI, World War II, Korea and Vietnam. It’s been estimated that about 300 American Indians are on the Vietnam Memorial Wall. Several thousand have, or are currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Of great importance are the missing facts about the bravery of American Indians in combat. American Indians have distinguished themselves and won numerous medals. And let’s not forget the great contribution of the many American Indian code talkers who played a significant role in the American wars.
It has been announced that the first American Indian Veteran Memorial is to be built. At last there will be a fitting tribute to the more than 600 American Indian tribes and their warrior veterans at the Riverside National Cemetery in California.
However, there will be a bit of irony on the cemetery grounds. Over at the stunning Medal of Honor monument, the granite slabs have etched names of all who have received this special award. Unfortunately, one of the slabs is entitled “Indian Campaigns” and has a long list of those who received the medals of honor distinguishing themselves in combat with Indians.
In closing, I mean no disgrace to the special award, the monument or the cemetery but it becomes ironic that these men received this medal for killing American Indians who were attempting to protect their lands and preserve their tribal cultures that date back thousands of years and now there will be two opposing monuments.
It becomes especially unsettling that 20 of those listed men received the Medal of Honor for killing 350 Lakota men, women and children at the massacre of Wounded Knee on Dec. 29, 1890. May this eventual monument bring peace and honor to the American Indian nations.
– Vince Standing Deer-Gomez
Chino Hills, Calif.