Vol. LIV No. 8
August 2019

We honor Chickasaw veterans for their service, warrior spirit

Our country’s annual observance of Veterans Day is coming up November 11. We are so tremendously thankful for all our veterans, and in particular our Chickasaw veterans. We honor them every day, and mark Veterans Day as the day for reflection on their sacrifices.

Originally called Armistice Day or Remembrance Day, November 11 was designated in 1919 by President Woodrow Wilson as the day we honor our veterans. The date coincided with the Nov. 11, 1918 Armistice that ended World War I.

Indian service in the military has historically been at disproportionately high levels. Indian men and women have lived out their patriotism throughout the generations by their military service.

Indian warriors were, of course, a critically important part of the American Revolutionary War, the War of 1812 and the War Between the States (Civil War). In the days of the American Revolution, Indian brigades were vital to the success of the new country. George Washington and other military leaders of the new nation understood victory could not be secured without the able contributions of the indigenous tribes. Indian nations were recognized for their significance, and their sovereign status, specifically in the U.S. Constitution.

With the outbreak of World War I and America’s entrance into the war in 1917, thousands of Indians volunteered for duty. This was in the days before many Indian people were even granted citizenship in the U.S. It is estimated over 12,000 Indian soldiers served in World War I, a huge number given the very small total Indian population at that time.

Over 600 Oklahoma Indians served with the 142nd Infantry, 36th National Guard Division in France. The men saw heavy combat and were celebrated for their “enthusiasm for the battle.” Four Indian soldiers were awarded France’s highest military honor, the Croix de Guerre.

In World War II, Indians once again served in high numbers. Over 44,000 Indians out of a total population of about 350,000 served. Indian women were also serving, and serving in critical functions. A number of female Chickasaw veterans of World War II served with great distinction.

Indian men and women served with honor in Korea and Vietnam, and it should be noted that over 90 percent of those Indian veterans were volunteers. The tradition of service continued, and continues, with the American engagement in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Today, Chickasaws and their fellow Indian servicemen and women are serving our country at duty stations throughout the world.

At the Chickasaw Nation, we are dedicated to not only honoring our veterans, but providing strong programs to serve them.

Each year a group of Chickasaw veterans embarks on a veterans’ trip to Washington, D.C. to mark Veterans Day. This is a Chickasaw Nation program that has proved popular with our veterans.

Our warrior tradition is an important part of our history, our heritage. The warrior ethos is deeply ingrained in Chickasaws, and that attribute has served our country very, very well.

Many of our veterans are members of our Chickasaw Warrior Society. This special program honors our veterans, offers gatherings and fellowship, and bestows a beautiful Warrior Society vest on each member.

We have recently dedicated the new Veterans Lodge on our south campus in Ada. Chickasaw and fellow veterans now have a place to gather, conduct meetings and enjoy fellowship. This facility is a great addition to our tribal veterans’ programs.

It is estimated approximately 190,000 Indian veterans are alive today. During this Veterans Day, it is fitting we honor our veterans, and our cherished heritage that is such an important part of our survival, and our success.

We are proud of our heritage and our history as Chickasaws, and as Americans. We remember those veterans who have served, and have died. And we honor our living veterans who are a testament to service and love of country.