The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 104, July 2000 - April, 2001

Southwestern Historical Quarterly

care" (p. vii): it reminds us of what historians sometimes overlook, lest we forget
our roots and the reasons we write.
U.S. Mzlztary Academy Samuel Watson
World War II and the Amencan Indian. By Kenneth William Townsend. (University
of New Mexico Press, 2000. Pp. x+272. Acknowledgments, introduction,
notes, selected bibliography, index, illustrations. ISBN 0-8263-2038-4.
$35.00, cloth.)
The title of this work is suggestive of a thematic scope far more narrow than
the book actually delivers. In nine chronological chapters, Townsend examines
John Collier's Indian Reorganization Act, Nazi propaganda efforts aimed at
Native Americans, Indian enlistment and draft resistance, the lives of Native
Americans during the war, postwar problems, and the move toward termination.
In assessing the I.R.A., the author finds that while Collier's programs brought
real prosperity and reform to Indian communities, they also unexpectedly set
the stage for assimilation. Townsend asserts that the skills, knowledge, and expe-
riences that many Native Americans gained through I.R.A. programs instilled in
them a belief that they could become part of white society. World War II provid-
ed the opportunity for Indians to test that belief.
Townsend effectively shows that not only were Native Americans overall very
supportive of the war effort, but many also saw the war as an opportunity to
become "a respected equal in the white world" (p. 221). Native Americans
enlisted in such numbers that one observer noted that "if the entire population
enlisted in the same proportion as Indians, there would be no need for selective
service" (p. 62). Indians who went into battle typically found that the whites in
their units accepted them as equals. Native Americans supporting the war effort
on the home front found high-paying jobs in factories and lucrative government
contracts and projects on the reservations.
Although most Indians supported the war, Townsend is careful to explain the
different ways in which distinct native peoples reacted to the conflict. Believing
that war was only justified by a direct threat to the tribe, Zunis unsuccessfully
lobbied for religious exemption from the selective service. Virginia tidewater
Indians, while not opposing the war, protested the state's classification of them
as African Americans. Intent on assimilation into white society and understand-
ably fearful of Jim Crow laws, Virginia Indians effectively lobbied to serve in
white units rather than being segregated in African American units. Having little
desire for assimilation into mainstream America, the Seminoles and Papagos
resisted the draft, maintaining their tribal sovereignty on the basis of prior non-
inclusion in American society.
Townsend uses the struggle between assimilationists and tribalists as a con-
stant theme throughout this work. He asserts that Native Americans were led to
believe that they could be fully assimilated into mainstream American society
through joining their "fellow Americans" in the war effort-a prospect that
many, but not all Indians, found appealing. Yet when the war concluded, most



Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 104, July 2000 - April, 2001. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. Accessed November 29, 2015.