Today’s post is written by Cody White, Archivist and Subject Matter Expert for Native American Related Records.
In honor of both National Native American Heritage Month and Veterans Day, today I want to highlight through our Bureau of Indian Affairs records one of the many Natives who answered our nation’s call in times of war.
When talking of WWII comics, we often point to Bill Mauldin and his two battle-weary soldiers Willie and Joe. But there was another soldier artist from New Mexico with a comic strip: Eva Mirabal. Entitled G.I. Gertie, her strips appeared in a Women’s Army Corps (WAC) publication and featured the hijinks of a young woman soldier. Today only a few of the multi-panel strips can be found online, but that does not diminish Mirabal’s accomplishments. This is her early story as seen in Record Group 75, Records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), holdings of the National Archives.
Eva Mirabal was born to Pedro and Andrea/Andra Mirabal in 1921, on July 25 according to her military records and student case file and June 18 according to the Northern Pueblos Agency birth register.
Mirabal graduated from the Taos Day School in May 1934 and entered the Santa Fe Indian School the next fall, graduating in 1940. She was active in the Girl Scouts through her senior year and was noted in an activity report to “be one of the most gracious and helpful people in the class” and “generous with her artistic ability.” According to a letter found in her student case file, she was encouraged to follow a plan of study in Taos for “non-Indian art” but could apply for entrance in the Arts and Crafts Department at Santa Fe. She chose the latter and completed one year of special vocational art under Gerónima Montoya, earning straight A’s.
Mirabal’s enlistment date varies depending on the record. The Electronic Army Serial Number Merged File, ca. 1938–1946 held by our electronic records branch and available via the Access to Archival Database site has her enlistment date as May 6, 1943. On Mirabal’s discharge certificate, a copy of which is today held by the New Mexico State Records Center and Archives and available via Ancestry.com, her enlistment date is given as August 5, 1943, working under the military occupational code “296, Artist.” This date might reflect when she was shifted into the Women’s Army Corps (WAC), which was converted from the earlier Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) that summer. In July 1944 she was a private and by the following year she made corporal, serving in the 4000th AAF Base Unit at Ohio’s Wright Field. By her discharge on January 7, 1946, she had earned her sergeant’s stripes and had been awarded the American Service Medal, Good Conduct Medal, WAAC Service Ribbon, and the World War II Victory Medal.
The last mention of Mirabal in our holdings is in an undated telegram to the Santa Fe Indian School superintendent, Charles Tenney. The administrative assistant to the Southern Illinois Normal University president asked for confirmation that Eva Mirabal attended and received the American Indian Arts Certificate in June 1942.
All of the records highlighted are found at the National Archives at Denver unless otherwise noted. Bureau of Indian Affairs student case files are closed to the general public for 75 years after record creation or the death of the student; in this case, given both the age of the file and the untimely passing of Ms. Mirabal in 1968, her student case file is open. For any questions or inquiries, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. For more on Mirabal and her family’s story, see a recent book from the Museum of New Mexico Press, Eva Mirabal: Three Generations of Tradition and Modernity at Taos Pueblo, which was co-written by her son and is available widely.