One Cherokee fought alongside Andrew Jackson; another became a Confederate brigadier general.
In World War I, Choctaws provided a code for Allied forces, and when Americans needed another unbreakable code in World War II, they turned to Navajos.
Those stories and more will be recounted today during a service remembering American Indian warriors and soldiers. Held at Chattanooga National Cemetery, it will immediately follow the traditional taps and salute service for Memorial Day.
"The native warrior tradition lives on and still is a very important part of the native peoples' culture," said Jamie Russell, a disabled veteran who served in the U.S. Army Special Forces from 1981 until 1990.
"We want to raise awareness that Native Americans are and always have been an important part of our country's defense," he said, wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with "America's original homeland security - fighting terrorism since 1492."
Paul H. Martin, director of Chattanooga National Cemetery, said the Tennessee Native Veterans Society programs have been a special addition to the traditional program for three years now.
"It's very inspirational," Mr. Martin said. "They have Native American music, and they talk about their veterans. The crowd staying for it continues to get bigger every year. This year I wouldn't be surprised to see 150 people here."
IF YOU GO
The service will immediately follow the traditional 11 a.m. Memorial Day service at Chattanooga National Cemetery.
* A 90-minute torchlight tour of the National Cemetery with Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park historian James Ogden is at 8:45 p.m. Bring a flashlight.
Among the warriors and soldiers to be remembered will be:
* Chief Junaluska and a number of other Cherokee men who fought with Gen. Andrew Jackson at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend during the War of 1812.
* Col. Ely Parker, a Seneca who served with Gen. Ulysses S. Grant in the Civil War
* Stand Watie, a Cherokee who became a Confederate brigadier general.
* Ira Hayes, a Pima who helped raise the American flag at Iwo Jima in World War II.
Surveys from the 1990 U.S. Census found there were 160,000 living American Indian veterans. That's nearly 10 percent of all living Indians, a proportion nearly triple that of the general population, Mr. Russell said.
He attributes it to heritage.
"Military service is the only chance nowadays that native people have to be warriors and, traditionally in native society, that gives us a sense of pride and accomplishment," he said.
"And this is our homeland. It's always been our homeland. We will do whatever we need to protect it," he said.