The Muscogee (Creek) Nation is mourning the passing of Chief R. Perry Beaver. Beaver passed on July 11, 2014.... Read more
Darrell “Chip” Wadena, who served as the tribal chairman of the White Earth Chippewa in Minnesota for 20 years from 1976 to 1996, walked on June 24 after a long illness.... Read more
The Navajo Nation is in mourning.... Read more
Most people know, of course, that Chester Nez was a World War II code talker—one of the original 29, in fact, who developed the code that stymied Japanese forces and helped win the war in the Pacific.
But to understand the true measure of the man, let’s consider the whole package.
As a child, he was sent to boarding school, where he was given a new name and was forbidden to speak his language. Then, with the U.S. looking for a way to confound its wartime enemies, he and 28 other Navajo men were recruited to create an unbreakable code, using the language they had been punished for speaking, a language that had been unwritten and was spoken only by the Navajo.
The mission was top secret. He couldn’t talk about it—not with other Marines with whom he served; not with his family, even after the war; not with the paper-pusher back home who, when Nez applied for a civilian ID card, smugly told the decorated war veteran that he still was not a full citizen of the U.S.
When a battle was over, Marines in their division got R&R while Nez and his fellow code talkers shipped off to another battlefield: Guadalcanal, Bougainville, Guam, Peleliu.
And yet, Nez and his fellow code talkers didn’t complain.
They were the beneficiaries of ceremonies performed to protect them physically, emotionally and spiritually (American History magazine reported in 2006 that there was “surprisingly little evidence of serious psychological problems or combat fatigue among the returning Navajo veterans.”) Their uniforms had been blessed before they left home. On the battlefield, they carried medicine pouches containing an arrowhead and corn pollen. They prayed every day.
Sometimes, on the battlefield, Nez could hear the bells of the sheep back home and knew people there were praying for him. Indeed, in Chichiltah, his family did pray for him. They burned sage or cedar chips and fanned the smoke over their bodies and, Nez wrote in his memoir, “Their prayers were carried across the miles as the pure, bright chime of the bells.”
The Way carried them through the endless battles and the constant threat and smell of death.
“They didn’t do it for the glory,” said Joe Price, whose namesake grandfather was a code talker. “They did it to defend their homeland—not just the United States, but the Navajo Nation.”
That was Chester Nez, whose remains were laid to rest with full military honors on June 10 at the national cemetery in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He walked on at the age of 93 on June 4. He was the last of the 29 original code talkers; ultimately, the ranks of code talkers numbered 421.
“We will always be grateful for his sacrifice and brave service for our country, and more importantly, for his selfless actions to protect our people and the great Navajo Nation,” Navajo Nation Speaker Pro Tem LoRenzo Bates said of Nez, in a statement posted on the nation’s website.
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National Indian Gaming Association Chairman Ernest L.... Read more
World War II has been over for more than 65 years, and the outcome of that war has largely been credited to the work of the original 29 Navajo code talkers.... Read more
Elected to the Puyallup tribal council in 1971, Herman Dillon Sr.... Read more
“With a heavy heart,” Coquille Tribal Chairperson Brenda Meade announced the death of long-time Tribal Chief Kenneth Tanner on May 24.... Read more
Poet, author, actress, civil rights activist and professor Dr. Maya Angelou, whose works resonated with themes of unity, liberation and moving forward, has walked on at age 86.... Read more
Memorial Day is so much more than a long weekend on the last Monday in the month of May, and the unofficial kickoff of summer. A federal holiday, it is a day designated for remembering the men and women service members who have died while serving in the U.S. military.
In remembrance of this honorable day and these folk who made the ultimate sacrifice, ICTMN has put together a representation of those Native men and women who crossed over while serving their country. This Memorial Day we will think on all of those who gave so much defending these United States.
Lori Ann Piestewa, 23, Iraq
Army Specialist Lori Piestewa (Hopi) was the first American servicewoman killed in action in Operation Iraqi Freedom. She was also the first Hopi woman and the first Native American woman to die in combat in the service of the United States. Piestewa came from a long line of warriors: Her father served in Vietnam, her grandfather in World War II.
RELATED: Lori Ann Piestewa: Honorable Hero
Mitchell Red Cloud Jr., 26, Korean War
Red Cloud Jr. (Winnebago), a corporal in Company E 19th Infantry in Korea, in November 1950 was surprised by Chinese forces yet stayed in position and sounded the alarm. Severely wounded, he refused assistance and instead hunkered down to fight. He was fatally wounded.
His actions stopped forces from overrunning his company and allowed for evacuation of other wounded. He received a posthumous Medal of Honor in 1951. Camp Red Cloud in Uijeongbu, South Korea, is named after him, according to the U.S. Army website.
Ernest E. Evans, 36, World War II
Evans (Cherokee, Creek) was a Lieutenant Commander serving aboard the USS Johnston during the Battle off Samar on 25 October 1944. Under attack from superior Japanese forces comprised of battleships, heavy and light cruisers and destroyers, Evans gave orders to close the range and prepare for a torpedo attack, telling his crew that "survival cannot be expected."
After a barrage of torpedoes, the USS Johnston was damaged to the point that Evans had to give the order to abandon ship. It is not known if Evans died of wounds onboard, or if he drowned after jumping into the water, but he was not among the crew members who were rescued. For his acts that aided in warding off the Japanese forces, Ernest E. Evans was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.
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