Fort Berthold Indian Reservation and the Service Flag

Fort Berthold Indian Reservation, North Dakota. Home of the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation

    What is relatively unknown is that while service flags were commonly seen hung in windows of homes in towns and cities, they were also displayed on numerous Indian reservations. This photograph of a ten star service flag was taken in 1919 while it hung in the outside chapel on the Fort Berthold Reservation. Photograph courtesy of the National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution (Catalog No. 22792B).

    When the United States entered the war in April of 1917, most Native American Indians were not yet citizens. Even still, they volunteered at a very high rate, hopeful that their service to the Country would grant them full citizenship from the government. 

    While on the front lines in France, many American Indians served in extremely dangerous roles. Including assignments such as snipers, scouts, and code talkers, it was believed that such roles were inherent to their race. This led to a casualty rate of 5% among the American Indians as compared to 1% for all other ethnic groups.

     After the war in 1919, in recognition of their service to the Country, American Indian servicemen were provided the opportunity to apply for citizenship. It wasn't until June 2nd, 1924, almost six years after the war, that all Native Americans born in the U.S. were granted citizenship.