UALR Research Center aids in effort to identify Native Americans who served in WWI
Native American troopers who deserve honors for his or her service in World War I’ll quickly obtain these awards, thanks in half to work being accomplished on the University of Arkansas on the Sequoyah National Research Center in Little Rock.
“Some of them [individuals] have never received the recognition they deserve, and their families and loved ones may not even know of their actions,” mentioned Erin Fehr, archivist and affiliate director of the Sequoyah National Research Center. “It’s about bringing that bravery to light.”
The Sequoyah National Research Center is collaborating with the George S. Robb Center for the Study of the Great War at Park University in Missouri, dwelling of the Valor Medals Review Project and Task Force, as a staff of researchers and historians examine African Native Americans American, Asian American, Jewish American, and Hispanic American troopers who served from 1914 to 1921, in accordance to Angie Faller, information director at UALR.
To qualify for a overview of what different medals they could be eligible for, if any, the service member should have been awarded a Distinguished Service Cross/Navy Cross and/or the French Croix de Guerre with Palm Tree and/or have been really helpful for a medal of Honor, however demoted. To date, greater than 200 service members have certified for overview, together with two dozen Native Americans.
In addition, Fehr mentioned her analysis additionally uncovered 14 Native American girls who served as nurses throughout the struggle. Her new “mission,” she mentioned, is to “track down” all of those names, and others if obligatory. “I think there’s probably more than 14, and that’s a remarkable story that no one knows about.”
The Sequoyah National Research Center, initially established in 2005, goals to purchase and protect the writings and concepts of Native Americans by amassing the written phrase and artwork of Native Americans and making a analysis environment that’s indigenous invitations peoples to design the middle Archiv Heimat for his or her artistic work, in accordance to the college. The collections there signify the world’s largest assortment of Native American expressions, and the middle has labored for years to protect the historical past of Native American troopers who served in World War I, making it a lucky alternative for this undertaking.
When the middle compiled a group on World War I Native American code audio system in celebration of the centenary of the United States’ entry into the struggle in 2017, “we discovered that lots of people do not even know [Native Americans] fought in the First World War,” said Fehr. This led to the creation of a log to document the “unbelievable” number of those who served.
In 2017–2019, staff at the Center for the US World War I Centennial Commission created a website about American Indians and Alaska Natives at war as researchers attempted to identify all of the estimated 12,000 Native Americans who, according to Faller, had served during World War I. Launched in January 2019, the site contained more than 6,000 names and has since been archived by the Library of Congress.
“We’re down to about 6,100 names now, but it surely’s going to be troublesome,” Fehr said. While black soldiers were separated into their own regiments during the war, Native Americans were integrated into the ranks with white soldiers, making it harder to know where to focus, although “we all know some models have many” Native Americans had, such as the 36th Division from Oklahoma and Texas and the 142nd Infantry.
Military and census records were helpful in the research, as were newspaper articles from the period, she said. Many Native Americans who fought in the war were treated as “hometown heroes” upon their return, and their local newspapers often wrote stories about them — in many cases including photos.
School credentials were also beneficial, as Native American boarding schools were “ripe recruiting grounds for the army” because these schools already had military agency structures, she said. Records from the Carlisle Indian Industrial School, which was the premier Indian boarding school in the United States from 1879 to 1918 – attended by, among others, one of America’s greatest athletes, Jim Thorpe – proved to be “a treasure trove of data.”
Among those who visited Carlisle was James Riley Wheelock, a member of the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin who had enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1918, she said. Because Wheelock had his own band that toured the country, he was appointed band director of an all-black band during the war.
The second lieutenant led the 808th Pioneer Infantry Band to several awards, and “they have been nice,” she said. You were even chosen to play for President Woodrow Wilson and several diplomats at a post-war event.
Native Americans also filled roles as doctors and dentists, frontline Boy Scouts and bakers, she said. Many – especially in the army – believed they had “warrior spirit”, with their running, tracking, and scouting abilities being valued.
“Many of them served as officers due to their coaching, others have been promoted throughout the struggle,” Fehr said. “I’ve discovered no proof that they have been mistreated throughout the struggle.”
Although not all Native Americans were US citizens at the time of the war, that did not prevent them from being drafted; However, they willingly served as volunteers or conscripts, and this service “spurred the seek for their citizenship” after the struggle, she mentioned. “In 1924, Congress handed the Indian Citizenship Act, which made all of it occur [Native Americans] amongst US residents, and that was immediately associated to their struggle document and their loyalty to the US.
(Although now residents, not all had the best to vote, she mentioned. Some states held out, so it took a long time longer for all of them to acquire the best to vote.)
Native Americans are receiving extra recognition for his or her army service, not simply in World War I however all through American historical past, together with the lately opened National Native American Veterans Memorial on the grounds of the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, DC It honors the various American Indians, Alaskan Natives, and native Hawaiians who have served because the Revolutionary War.
In 2018, the workplace of US Rep. French Hill – a Republican representing the state’s 2nd congressional district – labored with Dr. Brian Mitchell, then Associate Professor of History at UALR, collectively to assist the household of the late Pvt. Leroy Johnston (a sufferer of the 1919 Elaine Massacre, when scores of black individuals have been killed in rural Phillips County) with decorations he earned however didn’t obtain throughout his World War I service, in accordance to Faller. This collaboration was the inspiration for the World War I Valor Medals Review Act, which ensures minorities who served in World War I are honored with correct recognition.
According to Faller, the Sequoyah National Research Center will proceed to assist the Robb Center’s work with the Valor Medals Review Project by means of 2025, when the duty power comes to an finish. Anyone in including the title of a Native American soldier who served in World War I to Sequoyah’s database can contact Fehr at [email protected] or fill out an internet type at https://ualr.edu/sequoyah/wwi/.