Female Native American Veterans of World War II
While Native American men enlisted in disproportionately large numbers, it is little known that Native Women also went to their local recruitment offices to join in some branch of the United States military. Over 800 Native women enlisted during World War II. They served not only in the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC), later renamed the Women's Army Corps or WAC, but also in the Army and Navy Nurse Corps and various offshoots of the WAAC. These included the WAVES, SPARS, United States Marine Corps Women's Reserve (MCWR), and the Women's Auxiliary Service Pilots (WASP).
Women serving in military units faced prejudice, sexism, and accusations of licentiousness and immorality. Native American women faced these same discriminations and sometimes (but rarely) racist attacks on their Native status or "Indian blood."
These women came from diverse backgrounds. Some were raised traditionally, some in strictly Christian households. Some experienced boarding or parochial schools, some did not. Some grew up on the reservation or in rural settlements, and some grew up in the city. They joined various military groups for vastly different positions. These women served as clerks, mechanics, pilots, personal assitants, nurses, and mail carriers.
It is important to recognize these Native women, as their service occurred at a time when it was difficult to be a woman and difficult to be Native. Many of these women went on to have extraordinary careers, serving on tribal courts, participating in the Red Power movement for tribal sovereignty, and even continued service in the United States military.
Curated by Kaitlin Sundberg, Fall 2016 Semester