Mule Rearing gas masks African American Officers Riveters The pilots African American Soldiers 1 doughboys with mules pilots in dress uniforms

The Selective Service Act of May 18, 1917

To bring the armed forces to war-time strength, Congress passed the Selective Service Act on May 18, 1917. The law applied to all male citizens and all other males, who were not alien enemies and who had declared their intentions to become citizens, between the ages of 21 and 30, both inclusive. Indians had to register but were exempt from service if they were non-citizens and chose exemption.

While most who registered did not choose exemption, some tribes, such as the Navajos and Nez Perce, whose members were not citizens, resisted registration for the draft as did a few Seminoles, who joined Oklahoma socialists in what was known as the Green Corn Rebellion, which was quickly quelled. When Cato Sells, the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, visited Texas training bases in late 1917, he saw about 1,500 Indians in the four camps he visited. Some 85% were volunteers, including non-citizens. Of the 15% who were draftees, some could have been exempt because they also were not citizens. In August, 1918, Congress amended the Selective Service Law to apply to all men 18 to 45 and barred further volunteering.

Herbert Cooper (Wampanoag) draft registration card
Herbert Cooper (Wampanoag) draft registration card

American Indians in WWI Centennial Commission

Contact: Erin Fehr ehfehr@ualr.edu

American Indians in World War I was created by the Sequoyah National Research Center at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

Contributors: Daniel F. Littlefield, Jr. and Erin Fehr

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