Why did Native Americans fight in WWI and WWII?

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The question pretty much sums it up. Weren't Native Americans treated harshly and taken advantage by the US government before and after? Why would they want to fight for the US? ...show more
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That is the question asked by Peter LaFarge in his song "The Ballad of Ira Hayes"...

Gather round me, people, there's a story I would tell,
About a brave young Indian you should remember well;
From the land of the Pima Indians, a proud and noble band,
Who farmed the Phoenix Valley in Arizona land.
Down their ditches for a thousand years the waters grew Ira's people's crops,
Till the white man stole their water rights and their sparklin' water stopped.
Now Ira's folks grew hungry, and their farms grew crops of weeds.
When war came, Ira volunteered and forgot the white man's greed.

The answer is unknown. Despite all that the United States has done to them and their people, Native Americans have been among the most loyal troops to serve under the American flag. And we have done some harsh things to even the Native Americans that served us. The Apache scouts, for instance, that tracked down Geronimo down and persuaded him to surrender were disarmed, arrested and placed on the same train taking Geronimo and his band to Florida.

There were benefits, even during the American Indian wars, for Native Americans to serve with the military. We often forget that Native Americans were not a monolithic nation, but were composed of hundreds of independent bands that often warred against each other. Often Native Americans joined with American forces in a battle against a common enemies. Thus you have Crow scouts riding with George Custer at the Little Big Horn.

Joining the army or being a scout also allowed Native American men a chance to be a warrior. In many tribes, the men's jobs were to raid and hunt. When the tribes were put on reservations by the United States government, the men were no longer allowed to raid and hunt and, in a real sense, were culturally emasculated by the American government. But, as a scout, these Native Americans could still raid with the Army and they could still be men. Further being a scout was a way to get off the reservation and experience some type of life again on the free prairie.

Finally, there were financial benefits as scouts were paid. They were given food, uniforms and weapons. Their families had at least the promise, often unfulfilled, of receiving better treatment.

But, still, it is a mystery of why Native Americans have been so loyal and patriotic to the United States. The American government has done little to earn their loyalty.


Yes I know Johnny Cash had the #3 country hit singing the song, but LaFarge wrote the Ballad of Ira Hayes...

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this answer seemed to show the most possible reasons why
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  • ? answered 4 years ago
    American Indians have served in all our nation's wars despite the fact that they were not granted citizenship until 1924. 12,000 Native Americans served our country heroically in WWI, 44,000 (of a total population of 350,000 First Americans at the time) served in WW II, and 42,000 (over 90% of which were volunteers) served in Vietnam. Native Americans have the highest record of service per capita of all the ethnic groups in America. Perhaps, the best reason for these astonishing statistics was explained in a statement made by Raymond Nahai ,a Native WW II veteran when he said, "Many have asked why we fight the white man's war. Our answer is that we are proud to be Americans, and we are proud to be American Indians. The American Indian always stands ready when his country needs him." Another reason that Native Americans seem always to come to the assistance of this country in times of need goes back to time honoured traits held in esteem by all Native American societies. These are Strength, Honor, Pride in the people, Devotion, Wisdom, and Spiritual Strength. These are the traits which made them feared opponents in the battle against "Manifest Destiny", and it is what makes them courageous warriors today.

    The Second World War didn’t end racism. In fact, many black and native soldiers went overseas to fight for their country only to return and be denied their old jobs.

    Soldiers who returned from WWII were of a different demeanour they when they had left. Before they had left they were mostly acceptful of the status quo. They were lower class, and lacked the basic human civil rights that the rest of the country had. The few who sought change were suppressed or given no importance. However during the war this all changed. Men who went into battle fought and died among men of many different races, although their battalions were different. They realized that the country they were fighting, and dying for was not giving them any rights at all. They were fighting for their country yet they did not receive the same treatment as all the other people did.


    Various American History Departments of various European & Canadian Colleges
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  • tuffy answered 4 years ago
    You can't be much more native american than someone whose ancestors were here 20,000 years before the Mayflower.There are few more proud people than the families od the "Code Talkers" who were not even acknowledged that they existed until the 1980's. Some never revealed even to their families what they did until the government recognized their efforts officially in the 1980s. That is about as secure as it gets.
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  • HereIam answered 4 years ago
    Good question, I suppose some were unhappy about being asked to fight. But I think ww2 had a draft (though not sure), so some might of had to fight. Some might of also done it for the money and for the respect they thought they might gain from other Americans. Some may have just decided to put their differences aside and protect the country that they loved, after all even though the Europeans took over, it was their country first, and they should want to defend it even if they have to work with the 'enemy'....put differences aside for the greater good. Others maybe figured it was their duty as an American like many other people of different races did.

    Who knows, but they did fight, and without them the wars could have gone a totally different way. (The code talkers for example)
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  • Bronwen answered 4 years ago
    I'm going to link an article I read this week. It says why the gentleman involved fought:


    He said he did it to be patriotic and to help. I guess that's the plainest and most honest answer you'll ever get.

    I met a Navajo gentleman once who was a code talker in the Pacific in WWII--he and his brother both went and joined the military on December 8th, 1941. I asked him why he did it, and he gave me a funny look, and then said, "Missy, we had to. Those white men were going to muck things up!" Then he laughed, and said that in all honesty, they did it for the same reason every man volunteers--they feel it's their patriotic duty to help out in a time of crisis. (I live in Utah, so the Navajo Nation is in part of my state--other people may not have access to Native Americans, and especially to a group which was famous for their code talking contribution.) A book from a small, local press had just come out about the Navajo Code Talkers, and he had come in to see if we had it (I worked at the public library), because he was in it. Our copy was out, so I ordered one from another branch, and when it came in, I found his picture and his interview. He said pretty much the same thing he'd already told me. He became a code talker because he happened to be fluent in Navajo (his own brother and several of his friends weren't fluent enough to make the cut for the program), but he enlisted just because he wanted to serve, and to help his country. He was a patriot.

    Remember that black Americans and Japanese Americans also served during WWII, and they did so with distinction. They were treated horribly, too. There was a very decorated Japanese unit that did all sorts of crazy stuff in Europe, and they were an all-volunteer unit, and some of them had family in detention camps here at home.

    You ask why people who are treated so poorly in general would want to fight for the US. I think it's because when it comes to a decision like that, people look at it specifically. They don't say, "Here I am, a Native American (or today, a gay/Arab/American-but-not-a-citizen-yet/... whatever) person, one whose people have been treated like crap, and continue to be treated like crap, and now those same people who treat us like crap are involved in a war." They say, "Here I am, just me, Tom, and there's a war on, and I'm a little scared, but I want to help, so I'm going to volunteer." There's a world of difference when you move from the general to the specific. The general involves a lot of people--the specific involves yourself. And in the end, it's just yourself who volunteers and then goes off to risk your life.

    I wish the US would show more gratitude to all those individuals, to anyone who has worn a uniform at any time. Our government tends to look at the generalities, and not the specifics. It's at the level of the specifics that things get complicated :(
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  • Dylan \m/ answered 4 years ago
    Its because of out volunteer service, that the Federals finally granted us citizenship after WW1. I've asked my Ma about her father and uncles who fought WW2 in Europe and in Iwo Jima why they did. She couldn't answer that, so I guess we may never know. All I know is that when they came back; they weren't full of pride or gloat; simply put life was back to how it was before they left. It wasn't till the Bush presidency, did any President recognize Navajo veterans of WW2. Maybe the same reason why alot of young men joined, the Depression era hit the reservations probably the hardest. Leaving many to join the military, money and a chance of adventure; thats why you see alot of Veterans of WW2 speak highly of they're military service back in the day.


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  • ammianus answered 4 years ago
    Service in the army during wartime offers the chance of adventure, travel, plunder, and excitement.There's also the smart look of the uniform and the social standing that goes with military service. It's also a job with regular pay and benefits - if you're part of an ethnic minority abused and discriminated against by the ruling majority,joining the armed forces in wartime is an escape from the circumstances of your current existence, particularly in economic terms.
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  • Brian answered 4 years ago
    probably the same reasons all other americans were fighting. they benefited the same as well.

    after 500 years, "nativity" really goes down the drain. im white, and my dad's side of the family has been in the US for 150 years. many families have been here longer. if thats not nativity, i dont know what is.
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