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New classroom resource for American Indian Heritage Month

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Did you know that 99% of eligible American Indians registered for the draft during WWII? Or that that last surviving Crow war chief accomplished his war deeds on the battlefields in Europe? Or even that some American Indians renounced using one their traditional symbols of healing and good luck, because it resembled the Nazi swastika?

These and other surprising facts and stories are a part of the Museum’s new and improved Virtual Field Trip, Warrior Tradition: American Indians in WWII, just in time for November’s American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month.

Not only about the most famous group of American Indians during the war, the Navajo Code Talkers, the program focuses on the stories of American Indians on the battlefields of Europe. Students will hear from oral histories segments of Joseph Medicine Crow, who became a war chief by counting coup on the Germans. In his most daring feat, Medicine Crow captured around 50 horses from an enemy camp. When he came home and recounted his war stories, the Crow elders deemed that he achieved four important war deeds to become a Crow chief.  At age 100 (soon to be 101 this month), he may be the only surviving Plains Indian war chief.

Students will also hear from Medal of Honor recipient and Choctaw Indian Van Barfoot, who recounts his actions on the day that earned him the distinction. In addition to destroying a German tank and field piece, he helped two seriously wounded members of his unit walk over a mile to safety. Barfoot demonstrated that a warrior not only fights for his nation, but also protects and defends his people.

With a focus on language and symbols, students will  also explore life in American Indian boarding schools, how the Code Talkers used their once-suppressed languages to successfully transmit code in the Pacific Theater (and even on Utah Beach during D-Day), and why Native languages and terminology are still relevant  today.

No matter the technology in your classroom, your students can view and participate in a Virtual Field Trip. Book your Warrior Tradition Virtual Field Trip today before November fills up!

Be sure to also check out the entirety of Van Barfoot’s oral history on the Museum’s Digital Collections site.

Don’t forget, there’s still  9 days left in Hispanic American Heritage Month and time to schedule our Los Veteranos: Latinos in WWII Virtual Field Trip.

Post by Chrissy Gregg, Virtual Classroom Coordinator

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