Women’s History Month Honors The Unsung Heroes: The Female Warriors

Native American Women Veterans By Judith Bellafaire, Ph.D., Curator, Women In Military Service For America Memorial Foundation

Lori Piestewa, Hopi-(December 14, 1979 – March 23, 2003) Photo credit: ARMY.MIL

Osiyo. March is Women’s History month and we wanted to acknowledge the contributions made by Native Indian women in all sectors of  American society. The list is both impressive and extensive, however, there is one group of Indian women rarely mentioned when speaking of the U.S. military; our female soldiers. They are the  mothers, daughters, sisters, and wives who risk their lives for the safety of Indians and non-Indians.  Many have  died defending their homes and their loved ones…

The following article expresses these sentiments, and provides information of notable American Indian women who have served in the U.S. military over the years. Excerpt:

“Very little is known about the contributions of Native American women to the United States military. The Women In Military Service For America Memorial Foundation is attempting to fill this gap by encouraging Native American women veterans to register with the Memorial so that their stories may be recorded and preserved. They are also conducting research on the contributions of Native American women of earlier eras…Four Native American Catholic Sisters from Fort Berthold, South Dakota worked as nurses for the War Department during the Spanish American War (1898). Originally assigned to the military hospital at Jacksonville, Florida, the nurses were soon transferred to Havana, Cuba. One of the nurses, Sister Anthony died of disease in Cuba and was buried with military honors…Fourteen Native American women served as members of the Army Nurse Corps during World War I, two of them overseas…Nearly 800 Native American women served in the military during World War II…Sarah Mae Peshlakai, a member of the Navajo Tribe from Crystal, New Mexico, enlisted in the Women’s Army Corps in 1951 and served until 1957…Shirley M. Arviso, a Navajo of the Bitter Water Clan, served in the Navy from 1953 through 1963. She was the Communications Officer in charge of a group of people who decrypted classified messages… As of 1994, 1,509 Native American women and Native Alaskan women were serving in the military forces of the United States.”

Katherine Matthews-Cherokee Tribe, North Carolina,1970s.Credit: Women’s Memorial.org

Elva (Tapedo) Wale-Kiowa-served in WWII. Credit:Women’s Memorial.org

DarleneYellowcloud-Lakota Tribe,1980s.Credit:Women’s Memorial.org










“…The Lord blesses us with children, and he blesses us with friends, however it’s only on a loan basis. It’s not on a forever basis, because we’re not here on this Earth forever.”

~Percy Piestewa~(Father of Lori Piestewa)


Category: History