At least 43,000 Native Americans fought in the Vietnam War, yet both the American public and the United States government have been slow to acknowledge their presence and sacrifices in that conflict. In this first-of-its-kind study, Tom Holm draws on extensive interviews with Native American veterans to tell the story of their experiences in Vietnam and their readjustment to civilian life.
Holm describes how Native American motives for going to war, experiences of combat, and readjustment to civilian ways differ from those of other ethnic groups. He explores Native American traditions of warfare and the role of the warrior to explain why many young Indian men chose to fight in Vietnam. He shows how Native Americans drew on tribal customs and religion to sustain them during combat. And he describes the rituals and ceremonies practiced by families and tribes to help heal veterans of the trauma of war and return them to the "white path of peace."
This information, largely unknown outside the Native American community, adds important new perspectives to our national memory of the Vietnam war and its aftermath.
Acknowledgments 1. Forgotten Warriors 2. An Older Tradition: Native American Warfare and the Warrior’s Place in Tribal Societies 3. Warriors into Soldiers: Euro-American Warfare and the Militarization of Native Americans 4. A Legacy of War: The American Indian Vietnam Generation 5. “Indian Country” 6. Strong Hearts Notes Bibliography Index
Tom Holm served in Vietnam in 1968. Today he is Associate Professor of American Indian Studies at the University of Arizona.
"Strong Hearts effectively reveals the participation of America's most forgotten minority of the twentieth century in a war most Americans would prefer to forget. Himself a Native American Vietnam veteran, the author connects Indian participation in the war to a traditional warrior spirit... [This] is a valuable and insightful study of Native American Vietnam veterans."
—New Mexico Historical Review
"This is not a book about war. It is a story about the experiences of those who went to war, of the cultures from which they came, and of their ancestors. Holm masterfully meshes the past with the present, linking ancient tribal tradition with the contemporary military service of Native American soldiers. . . . [His] straightforward narrative style promises to make Strong Hearts, Wounded Souls a pleasurable read for a diverse audience, both scholarly and general.."
"This is the first major study of American Indians in Vietnam.... Dr. Tom Holm, a Cherokee-Creek himself and a Vietnam veteran, provides the unheard 'Indian Voice,' and he shares an insightful perspective on that controversial war."
—Donald L. Fixico, Professor of History, Western Michigan University