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Photo: Jeff Robbins, AP
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In this July 8, 1986, file photo, World War II Navajo veterans and supporters march through the reservation in a show of solidarity against giving up any of their land to the Hopis in Arizona. “The Warrior Tradition,” a new film set to air on most PBS stations Monday, Nov. 11, 2019, examines the history of Native Americans in the U.S. military since World War I.
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Before Chuck Boers joined the U.S. Army, the Lipan Apache member was given his family’s eagle feathers. The feathers had been carried by his great-great-great-grandfather on his rifle when he was an Apache scout.
They also were carried by relatives who fought in World War I, World War II, Korea and Vietnam. In 2004, Boers had the feathers with him during the Battle of Fallujah in Iraq. “I felt like I had my family with me to protect me,” he said.
“The Warrior Tradition,” a new film set to air on PBS, examines the complex history of Native Americans in the U.S. military since World War I and how their service transformed the lives for Native Americans from various tribes. Through interviews with veterans and using archival footage, the documentary probes the complicated relationship Native Americans had with military service and how they used it to press for civil rights.
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At the onset of World War I, the first generation of Native Americans after the so-called Indian Wars began joining the U.S. Army even though they weren’t considered citizens or allowed to vote. Returning veterans, and also those from World War II, earned accolades for their service. For example, Comanche and Navajo Code Talkers in World War II were credited with passing secrets amid hostile fighting.
The returning veterans began demanding the right to vote and fought against discrimination. For example, Miguel Trujillo Sr., a Marine sergeant in World War II and a member of Isleta Pueblo in New Mexico, returned and waged a legal battle to overturn that state’s law that barred American Indians living on reservations from participating in elections.
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