Courtesy Department of the Interior
Native Veterans and Honor Guard attended the 2013 White House Tribal Nations Conference on November 13 at the Department of the Interior.

Finally: Spotlight to Shine on Code Talkers From 25 Tribes

Vincent Schilling


On December 21, 2000 the Navajo Code talkers were awarded Congressional Gold Medals as the highest expression of national appreciation for the involvement in World War II. In the years following, several tribes have fought to be recognized alongside the Navajo for similar efforts in the war as code talkers.

On November 20, 25 additional tribes will be recognized for their code talker service members.

For several in Indian country to include tribal leader, Bryan Brewer of the Pine Ridge Reservation, Regional Vice President of the NCAI Lance Gumbs and Cheyenne River Veterans Organization Commander Richard Charging Eagle, the Congressional Gold Medal of Honor being given to the families are a long time coming and well overdue.

“We are very excited about this and have five people that will be getting medals,” said President Brewer.

“Though these service members are deceased, their family members will be in Washington next week. This is something that should have happened a long time ago and when they were still alive. But I am glad the families can be here on November 20.”

Brewer, who says he will also be present at the event on Wednesday, said the families will also be honored afterwards by all of the Oglala Sioux Tribe. “After they receive their medals and we return home, we will have an honoring ceremony for them.”

“The interesting thing about these service members is often times the families did not even know they were code talkers,” said Brewer. “Toni Red Cloud, who works for me, said she did not even know her father was a code talker because he never talked about it.”

According to Charging Eagle, he and other veterans of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe have been working for many years to get this recognition.

“This Congressional Medal of Honor is long overdue for these gentlemen. If it weren't for the Native American code talkers World War II would have been lost to the Germans, and Japan. We could have lost all of it. But our code talkers really won for us and helped our bombing missions,” he said.

“Every reservation supposedly has some code talkers. For many years now the Navajo have always taken the credit as code talkers but the Navajo were not the only ones.

“We have four service members here who went into combat via communications and their families are being honored on November 20. The families always say these code talkers never talked about it and it was kept very classified. That's why a lot of the code talkers never said anything because their involvement was classified,” said Charging Eagle.

Gumbs, the regional VP at the National Congress of American Indians says the presentations of the medals are definitely a good thing.

“This is obviously a positive and it is long overdue. Native people have been involved in the conflicts of this land and the protection of this land since the Civil War. For us to finally be acknowledged and recognized that we played a major role in a war it serves notice to the rest of America about the contributions of Indian people.”

“If you look at the statistics, we have served in a greater ratio of numbers than any other ethnic group in this country throughout all of our many wars,” Gumbs said. “There were many different Native languages and Native tribes among the code talkers.”

Though the presentation of the Gold Medals has taken several years, Charging Eagle suspects one part of the reason for a delay is that there will be 25 separate designs for each tribe being given a medal.

Each medal will be cast in gold, silver and bronze, with the gold one being given to the tribes; the silver given to the families; and the bronze versions for sale to the public. A price has not been announced for the bronze versions to date.

“The Navajo are pretty famous as code talkers, and they get all the publicity, but so many people do not realize that there were a lot of other code talkers from other tribes that worked for this effort during the war,” Brewer said. “We are real happy that these other soldiers can be honored. It is very exciting.”



timoteo's picture
Submitted by timoteo on

It is about time recognition is made to the other Indian Nations that served as code talkers. I remember one book sharing the Cheyenne's code word for Hitler as "Crazy White Man." 'OOOOOOORAH!

shanna's picture
Submitted by shanna on

this is long overdue, but what about the WWI codetalkers? the choctaw were the first. why have they yet to be recognized?

ConniePugh's picture
Submitted by ConniePugh on

I had a native American friend who helped me in my learning of my NA heritage who was a code talker, he said they would drive the enemy crazy when they used NA languages ...RIP my friend George Downs

Anonymous's picture
Submitted by Anonymous on

without the support and nerves of steal from our First Nations men,,, who served in all wars,,especially,, our code-talkers,,, we would have lost the wars to Germany; china...

all others codes-----the--enemy--broke-em all,, but could not break ourcode-talkers !!

thank you code-talkers.

auntynona's picture
Submitted by auntynona on

The way I understand it, Europeans could break codes made in a European language because every one was so familiar with them. They were not familiar with the native languages.

Anonymous's picture
Submitted by Anonymous on

It is wonderful to see this happening! I believe my father was a code talker. According to one of his discharge papers, he was a Radio Operator and I found that to be confusing. He has very broken English, and he was difficult to understand when he spoke English! He never spoke of this ever. I know that he belonged to some elite or special force during WWII and the Korean Conflict. I can't say exactly what it may have been. Just some activities between the two wars and after. I was a small child as well, but I remember. I would like to know how I can find out!

Betty White-Fink's picture
Betty White-Fink
Submitted by Betty White-Fink on

My first husband and the father of my son and daughter was in the army during WW2 and had Native Americans from Northern Michigan, He told me that they would send Native Americans out on patrol with each squad so they could talk to each other in their native tounge and the German soldiers could not crack that language, and that was before I even knew about the Code Talkers in the movie. He had great respect for all of his Native American buddies and considered them brothers.

Anonymous 's picture
Submitted by Anonymous on

Ummmm , " . . . World War II would have been lost to the Germans, Japan, and China." The Chinese were part of the Allies.

Bill Brown *='s picture
Bill Brown *=
Submitted by Bill Brown *= on

I have been espousing for years that there were Ojibwe Code Talker
I am happy that they along with the other Code Talkers are finally being
recognized for their service,
Miigwech, *=

kathleen james johnson's picture
kathleen james ...
Submitted by kathleen james ... on

I thik its wonderfull and all tribes should get medals for there warriors who faught along side everyone as well as just the code talkers

Beaded Pony's picture
Beaded Pony
Submitted by Beaded Pony on

I am so proud of the seventeen young Comanche men who served as Code Talkers in the Fourth Infantry Division Campaign (6-6-1944 to 5-8-1945). All have now gone home to their heavenly reward. Oodah.

Anonymous's picture
Submitted by Anonymous on

Fred Brady, Cheyenne, indicated to me years ago that he was involved with this type of secret messaging when he was in the military. It was very secret. I do not know if he was ever honored for his work during his lifetime.

so.paiman's picture
Submitted by so.paiman on

that the Navajo are recognized is not a bad thing, they opened the door so others are also, we must remember that this started long before WWII, that the Navajo are just the latest in a very long line of speakers. We as Indian people are beginning to be seen, standing as we always have, for our families, people and land, our way of life holds humility and respect in highest esteem, so it should be no surprise that many families did not know.

Brenda Soden's picture
Brenda Soden
Submitted by Brenda Soden on

I want to thank All the Indian code talkers for there service to our country.

Anonymous's picture
Submitted by Anonymous on

my father was a code talker from the algoquin nation and was never recognized for his service