November celebrates Native American Indian Heritage Month

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Patricia Stone
  • 820th Security Forces Group
Native Americans have played a vital role in making America what it is today and for this reason our country honors Native American Indians during the month of November.

In 1994, a presidential proclamation designated November as National Native American Indian Heritage Month. Throughout the month, we celebrate the rich traditions and proud ancestry of American Indians and Alaska Natives.

There have been many Native Americans who have played a role in our country's history.

One of the first Native Americans to play a role was Sacagawea, a Shoshone Indian woman. From 1805 to 1806, she helped guide Lewis and Clark on their historic "Voyage of Discovery" expedition in the uncharted territory of the old West. Without the use of her navigational, diplomatic and translating skills to help them throughout their journey, the Lewis and Clark expedition may have perished.

The ability to communicate and relay important messages between Army allied forces during World War I was another contribution Native Americans have made toward the military.

The Germans had capabilities to easily intercept messages between forces so the U.S. Army began using American Indian Soldiers to communicate information using their native languages.

The Navajo Codetalkers were responsible for telephone communications using voice codes spoken in their native tongue, between an air commander in the Solomon Islands and various airfields in the region. They relayed secret messages that helped our nation and the allies secure victory; their codes were never broken.

During World War II, it was estimated that out of 350,000 Native American Indians, more than 44,000 had joined the military.

A few years later, many of those servicemembers became part of the fighting that had begun on the Korean Peninsula, continuing their military service in support of the fight against a communist regime and aggression. 

One young recruit who joined the military during the Korean conflict was Ben "Nighthorse" Campbell, a Cheyenne Indian. In 1951 he joined the Air Force and in 1987 he became the first American Indian to serve in Congress since 1929. 

Native American Indians throughout history have earned awards and recognition while serving in the military. 

Jack C. Montgomery, a Cherokee from Oklahoma, Ernest Childers, a Creek from Oklahoma, Van Barfoot, a Chocktaw from Mississippi, Mitchel Red Cloud Jr., a Winnebago from Wisconsin and Charles George, a Cherokee from North Carolina were five American Indians who received the Medal of Honor for their military heroism and for exhibiting extraordinary bravery during combat. 

Information on Native American Indian Heritage Month can be found by visiting the Web site or