Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version



Great Plains Quarterly Vol. 29, No. 1, Winter 2009, pp. 000-000


Copyright 2009 by the Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska- Lincoln


Anthropologist Susan Applegate Krouse employs the records of Joseph Kossuth Dixon to shed light on the experiences of American Indian servicemen during the First World War. A former Baptist preacher, Dixon waged a twodecade- long campaign before and after WWI to preserve a record of Indian cultures and traditions before Native Americans "vanished" as distinctive peoples. To this end, Dixon traveled extensively to photograph and film reservation Indians, at times choreographing or staging scenes that fit his somewhat romanticized view of indigenous life. On the eve of the U.S. entry into WWI, he argued for the creation of segregated Indian units as a means of preserving what he believed was an inherent "warrior spirit" and to encourage Indian esprit de corps. After the war, he lobbied Congress to pass legislation extending citizenship to non citizen Indians as a demonstration of national appreciation for their wartime service.

To preserve an account of Indian military service and to bolster his argument for citizenship, Dixon sent questionnaires to reservations across the country to solicit information from Indian veterans. Nearly 500 soldiers (and 849 reservation employees) completed the questionnaires and returned them to Dixon, providing a critical Indian perspective on the war and military life. Krouse reproduces a broad sampling of these questionnaires (or interviews)-many of them verbatim-and allows the veterans to tell their own stories for the first time: why they served, what jobs they performed, and what they witnessed both on and off the battlefield. Their testimonies make a significant contribution, as does Krouse through her excellent research and the context she provides for each excerpt. She also includes a useful appendix that examines the three most important primary source materials regarding Indian service in WWI and the likely motivations that led to the creation of each.