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More than twelve thousand American Indians served in the United States military in World War I, even though many were not U.S. citizens and did not enjoy the benefits of enfranchisement. Using the words of the veterans themselves, as collected by Joseph K. Dixon (18561926), North American Indians in the Great War presents the experiences of American Indian veterans during World War I and after their return home.
Dixon, a photographer, author, and Indian rights advocate, had hoped that documenting American Indian service in the military would aid the Indian struggle to obtain general U.S. citizenship. Dixon managed to document nearly a quarter of the Indians who had served but was unable to complete his work, and his records languished unexamined until now. Unlike other sources of information on Indian military service collected by government officials, Dixons records come primarily from the veterans themselves. Their comments reveal pride in upholding an Indian tradition of military service as well as frustration with the U.S. government. Particularly in its immediacy and individuality, Dixons documentation of American Indian veterans of World War I adds greatly to our understanding of the experiences of American Indians in the U.S. military.