Starred Review. “In a beautifully produced and illustrated volume commemorating the National Native American Veterans Memorial, Harris, senior editor and writer at Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, and Hirsch, a historian at the museum, offer probing, informative essays examining Native Americans’ participation in the armed forces. Drawing on interviews and historical documents, the authors show how motivations to serve were complex and varied […] Although the authors write that the book is “a chronicle of ordinary men and women doing extraordinary things under often unforgiving circumstances,” many profiled seem far from ordinary.”
This lavishly illustrated volume from the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian celebrates the dedication of the National Native American Veterans Memorial. Harris and Hirsch address the federal government’s war against Native American tribes, which, later, did not prevent Native Americans from serving in the military. Though this is not a comprehensive history of Native American military service, it does cover a great deal of the stories, characters, and motivations behind it. As the main authors and other contributors, including Native Americans, delve into the complex relations between tribal nations and the U.S. in both chapters and many illuminating sidebars, they arrive at the inescapable conclusion that when called to service, Native Americans answered in numbers disproportionate to the population, and served with great bravery and honor. This many-faceted chronicle also contrasts the stereotype of a warrior culture held by white Americans with the facts about martial traditions, ceremonies, and the undeniable effectiveness of indigenous service members. This is a unique, handsomely produced, deeply enlightening, and invaluable volume ideal for public library collections.
“This incredible heritage of more than two centuries of service comes to life in the pages of Why We Serve with its first-person accounts of the wartime experiences of the Native Americans who served. The rich narrative is augmented by a superb and expansive collection of photographs, maps, paintings and illustrations reflective of the people and their service.”
THE JOURNAL OF AMERICAN MILITARY PAST
“The book does an excellent job of highlighting Native American service in the armed forces, and it is attractively laid out, with scores of illustrations.”