- IntroductionBrothers and Sisters in Arms
Around the world, the centenary of the First World War has accelerated what Jay Winter refers to as the memory boom of the twentieth century.1 Nations such as Australia, Canada, and New Zealand have invested significant taxpayer dollars into commemorations of the war, continuing processes of (falsely) positioning wartime service as central to each nation’s identity and development.2 In other nations, such as the United States, it is the Second World War that has led to similar mythologies about the goodness of the nation’s character and citizenry through ideas of “the Good War” and “the Greatest Generation.”3 Notwithstanding the criticisms of historians, war and conflict continue to form a central place within national collective memories. Being included within that memory is akin to being recognized as a member of the nation-state, with particular entitlements to be heard on matters of national or political importance.
As military sociologists such as Morris Janowitz argue, minorities have often viewed military service as an opportunity to demonstrate acts of citizenship and, through such acts, to point to their military service in fights for civil and political rights.4 Scholars such as Warren Young and Ronald Krebs have debated the extent to which racial minorities may effectively leverage their position as service personnel or veterans to secure civil rights. Indeed, as both Young and Krebs argue, usually veteran or service member status alone is not enough to secure social change unless there are other catalysts within civil society that [End Page 5] make it in the state’s best interest to award civil rights to minority veterans (or, more widely, entire minority groups).5 Even so, racial minorities, including Indigenous peoples, have for their own reasons participated in the militaries of former or current colonial powers.
I have written elsewhere about the rise of Indigenous military histories across the major Anglo settler societies of the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and South Africa. The emergence of such histories, especially since the 1990s, has aligned with national reconciliation agendas, as well as efforts among Indigenous communities to commemorate the contributions of their forebears to their country’s defense.6 This project of historicizing Indigenous military service continues around the world, exposing the complex histories of Indigenous peoples who are constantly negotiating their statuses and military service, as well as their own traditions. More recent histories have been especially interested in the intersections between military service and themes such as colonialism, gender, race relations, and martial race theory.7 This special issue represents an extension of this new historiography, drawing scholars on Indigenous military participation from the nineteenth century until the present in the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and South Africa.
These articles derive from a conference hosted at Australian Catholic University in 2015 entitled “Brothers and Sisters in Arms: Historicising Indigenous Military Service,” and they represent some of the newest directions in this growing field. Dr. Teresia Teaiwa of Victoria University of Wellington began the conference with a captivating keynote address about the historical and continuing relationship between colonialism and militarism in the Pacific, with a particular focus on Fiji. Her sophisticated arguments drew together postcolonial theory, Pacific research methodologies, and gender studies. Teresia declined the invitation to contribute an article to this collection because she needed to focus on finishing a book about Fijian women and military service. It was with great sadness that I heard Teresia that passed away in March 2017 after a brief battle with cancer. Teresia’s work, and her unique approach as an oral historian using innovative and creative techniques to give voice to Pacific Islander women especially, inspired me as a historian. On behalf of all the contributors to this issue, I extend our deepest condolences to Teresia’s family and dedicate this special issue to her memory.
The first article, by Mark van de Logt, returns to the American frontier to examine the role of Sahnish scouts in the wars on the Great Plains from 1865 to 1881. Van de Logt describes the relationships between the Sahnish and their white commanders, as well as their complex motivations to work for...