Watchlist: ‘Native Americans have long history of military service’

05.16.2024 Kamiah Koch Watchlist


By Kamiah Koch

Social media/digital journalist

With Memorial Day approaching on Monday, May 27, this edition’s Watchlist looks back.

According to a news clip from ABC 7 in Chicago, there’s a long tradition of Native Americans joining and serving the United States military.

“This was a theme I found repeated throughout Indian Country,” Director for Northwestern Center for Native American & Indigenous Research Patty Loew said. “The United States is at war, our homelands are threatened, so we’re going to protect our people.”

ABC 7 Chicago notes that even though America’s history with Indigenous populations has seen its own battles, many Native people have chosen to serve. The video pans over a wall covered in photos of Native Americans who fought in World War II, the Vietnam War and Desert Storm.

“We engaged in every war the United States has took part in,” Trickster Cultural Center CEO Joseph Podlasek said.

The center has displays sharing the history of Native American military service. ABC 7 Chicago says some even served out of tradition.

“Some men and women were born into war clans so they were obligated to be protectors,” Loew said.

Native American Veteran Jennifer DeBouver is a descendent of a Navajo Codetalker. The Codetalkers were a group of Navajo men who used the unwritten Navajo language and created a code to be able to securely communicate during World War II. According to the Los Alamos National Lab, there are only three Navajo Codetalkers still alive today.

The Trickster Cultural Center has a display that shows 34 Native languages have been used by the U.S. military as code.

DeBouver says another reason many have served and continue to serve today is because of the location of reservations.

“A lot of them turned to the military to give themselves more opportunities,” DeBouver said.

You can watch the entire ABC 7 Chicago clip for yourself at