Houser (Chiricahua Apache), (1914-1994), "Unconquered
II," 1994, bronze. On display in the American Indian
Veterans National Memorial at Heard Museum, Phoenix.
On this Memorial Day holiday, as we remember those who have
given their lives in service to our country while protecting the
freedoms and ideals we hold dear, many of our fellow Americans remain
unaware of the major contributions Native Americans have made to
our nations armed forces. In fact, American Indians serve
in their countrys armed forces in greater numbers per capita
than any other ethnic group, and they have served with distinction
in every major conflict for over 200 years.
Best known are the Native American Code Talkers who served in
World Wars I and II. Theirs is a remarkable story and their contributions
were vital to our success, but there are countless other Native
Americans who have served in the U.S. military who deserve recognition.
According to the U.S. Department of Defense, as of 2012 there
were over 22,000 American Indians and Alaska Natives on active duty,
and the 2010 Census identified over 150,000 American Indian and
Alaska Native veterans. 27 Native Americans have been awarded the
Medal of Honor, the nations highest military honor.
As the director of the National Museum of the American Indian
and a citizen of the Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma, Ive witnessed
firsthand why Native Americans feel compelled to serve. I was raised
with stories of friends and family members bravery on the
battlefield. Native Americans served in World War I even though
they were not citizens of the United States. In fact, it was not
until after World War II in the 1965 passage of the Voting Rights
Act that all states were required to allow Native Americans to vote
on the same basis as any other American. Despite decades of persecution
and broken promises, despite being dispossessed of, and often forcibly
removed from, their ancestral homelands, American Indians have served
and continue to serve in our nations armed forces in numbers
that belie their small percentage of the American population. They
step forward when duty calls. Now, let us on this Memorial Day support
a memorial on the National Mall dedicated to the selfless service
and patriotism of our Native American servicemen and women.
In December 2013, Congress passed legislation authorizing the
National Museum of the American Indian, working with the National
Congress of American Indians, to create a memorial on the grounds
of the museum honoring Native American veterans. An advisory committee
is being formed, with members representing Native veterans from
across the United States and all branches of military service. Following
a series of discussions with Native communities and veterans, a
design competition will be conducted and a winning proposal selected.
I hope you agree the time has come to honor the extraordinary
service, dedication, and patriotism of American Indian veterans
with a National Native American Veterans Memorial.
Indian Veterans National Memorial at the Heard Museum in Phoenix,