Honoring, Remembering, and Serving Native American Veterans

Published on Nov 12, 2012

The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) joins with Indian Country and all Americans in honoring the men and women who have served in the United States Armed Forces. As we do every day through our work, NCAI extends the deepest gratitude to our nation's veterans and to their families.

As the events and ceremonies come to an end in many parts of the country we must not rest in our pursuit to provide for our veterans, recently or long returned.  Native American veterans have long served in the United States Military with honor and distinction, yet even today as service members return from duty, Native and non-Native service members too often find their greatest challenges lie ahead. As tribal nations, community members, and citizens of the United States, we must celebrate the commitment of these Native warriors with an equal unwavering commitment to their well-being and quality of life.

According to 2010 U.S. Census there are over 150,000 American Indian and Alaska Native Veterans living in the United States and ten percent of these veterans are women. The Pentagon estimates that well over 22,000 American Indian and Alaska Native active duty personnel currently serve across the Armed Forces.

NCAI is dedicated to serving veterans when they return to civilian life as they are equally entitled to the benefits that the federal government has made available. NCAI proudly seeks fair and dignified treatment of all veterans and also advocates for federal support and funding for American Indian and Alaska Native veteran programs and services.

At NCAI's recent 69th Annual Convention this past October in Sacramento, California, the NCAI membership passed resolution #SAC-12-002 - Support for Tribal Veteran Service Officers Training Programs. This resolution authored by NCAI's Veterans Committee supports programs in tribal communities which train Tribal Veteran Representatives and tribal councils in assisting American Indian Veterans in accessing veteran benefits and services, compensation, and pension claims.

We thank all of the nation's veterans today, and we will continue our work to ensure their future is filled with the freedom and health, for which they fought to provide for all Americans. 

Updated - Native Service by the Numbers

NCAI continues to track information released by the Department of Defense related to American Indian and Alaska Native service members who have died or been wounded in military operations.

As of October 2012 reports from the Pentagon provide the following information on the sacrifices made by American Indian and Alaska Native service members since 2001 in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan): 

  • 70 American Indians and Alaska Natives have died fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq (43 in Operation Iraqi Freedom, 27 in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan). A total of six American Indian and Alaska Natives have been killed since March of 2012.    
  • 513 American Indian and Alaska Native service members have been wounded in action since 2001 (344 in Operation Iraqi Freedom, and 169 in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan). This is an increase of 68 individuals wounded since May of 2011, when it was reported that 445 had been wounded (336 in Operation Iraqi Freedom and 109 in Operation Enduring Freedom).

The Pentagon also reported in March 2012 that 22,248 American Indian/Alaska Natives (AI/AN) currently serve in the military (active duty). Native personnel serve across the Armed Forces at the following levels; Army: 4,404; Navy: 13,511; Marine Corps: 2,128; and Air Force: 2,205.

The 2010 U.S. Census estimates that there are currently 156,515 American Indian and Alaska Native veterans. (Source: 2010 American Community Survey for the American Indian and Alaska Native alone population).

According to Department of Veteran Affairs, in 2006 more than 36,000 female veterans were AI/AN, representing almost 10 percent of all AI/AN veterans, and nearly twice the national average (6 percent of women in the overall population are veterans).

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