The Indian Wars Medal was established by paragraph (b) of War Department General Orders Number 12 dated January 21, 1907.
Awarded for qualifying service between 1865 and 1891 (and thereafter on a case-by-case basis).
The Indian Wars medal was awarded for military service in a campaign against any tribes or in any areas listed below, during the periods indicated:
ORDER OF PRECEDENCE
The Indian Wars Medal is worn after the Civil War Medal and before the Spanish Campaign Medal.
The only device authorized for the Indian Wars Medal was the Silver Citation Star, a five-pointed star three-sixteenths of an inch in diameter. Eleven Silver Citation Stars were retroactively authorized for gallantry in action during the Indian Wars. They were awarded to:
DESIGNER AND SCULPTOR
The Indian Wars Medal was designed by Francis D. Millet (1846-1912).
Indian Wars Medal No. 1 was issued to Major General Charles F. Humphrey on July 15, 1908.
DESCRIPTION AND SYMBOLISM
In the center of a bronze medallion one and a quarter inches in diameter, a mounted Indian holding a spear in his right hand is shown facing to the viewer's right. Above the horseman, and following the contour of the medal, are the words INDIAN WARS in raised letters. The remainder of the medal's contour contains a wreath of arrowheads with a buffalo skull at the base.
The Indian warrior in fighting regalia represents "the highly active and troublesome enemy of the frontier campaigns." The idea of a mounted Indian was intended by Millet to symbolize the ancient Greek horsemen as represented on the frieze of the Parthenon. The buffalo skull alludes to both the frontier and the Indian's close link with it; the arrowheads represent the Indian's traditional weapon in war and peace.
The reverse shows an eagle with wings displayed, alight upon a trophy consisting of a cannon; six rifles and four standards; an Indian shield; a quiver of arrows and three spears; a Cuban machete, and a Sulu kris. The whole is enclosed by a circle composed of the words, UNITED STATES ARMY in the upper half, and thirteen stars in the lower half.
The standards represent the five great wars of the United States as of 1905: the Revolution; the War of 1812; the Mexican War; the Spanish-American War; and the Philippine Insurrection. The weapons suggest the armed resistance offered by the defeated opponents in those wars. The eagle is the American bald eagle and represents the United States, and the thirteen stars allude the original colonies and symbolize unity. The six rifles, four standards, and three spears total thirteen, which is consistent with the thirteen stars at the bottom of the medal
Ribbon (First Type)
The ribbon to the Indian Wars Medal was originally red with darker red edge stripes. It was changed in 1917 because it was considered too similar to the French Legion of Honor. Millet selected the original colors because he felt that "vermilion was the favorite color of all savage tribes, particularly the North American Indian."
Ribbon (Second Type)
The second style ribbon retained the red background but dropped the darker edge-stripes and added a black stripe inside each edge.
The medal was initially manufactured by the Philadelphia Mint and was serially numbered with an No. prefix. The Mint also produced strikes that could be purchased by out-of-service veterans, and these were numbered with the M.No. prefix. Subsequent strikes were made by various contract manufacturers and were numbered without prefix.