It's Time for a Code Talker Museum in D.C.

Doreen Wonda Johnson

When I was first elected to the New Mexico House of Representatives, I was proud to have earned the support of my people of House District 5 in McKinley & San Juan Counties to represent their voice in the Roundhouse. And as a Navajo woman, I brought my unique perspective to the Legislature to build a more secure economic future that also preserves and promotes our Navajo Language and culture.

I have seen firsthand how the actions taken within the Legislature can have a major impact on all New Mexicans in our communities. I was born and raised in Crownpoint on the Eastern Navajo Reservation, therefore, I know firsthand about the needs for community support and capital projects throughout the various rural and Chapter communities. My understanding of the needs of our district has been vital in considering key decisions in the legislature, including the state’s budget, capital outlay and advocacy for social issues across the board.

As a legislator, I must put our children and students first. As my great grandparents put my educational future first, I must do the same for our children today, as they deserve every opportunity to work hard and to achieve their dreams. I will always encourage these educational opportunities to begin as early as possible in a child’s life, so that we can have the greatest positive impact by elevating our people to their highest potential. This is the reason why I have been advocating to increase the number of providers for early childhood development so that more of our children can receive early childhood education and services. Not only will this action benefit our children, but it will also create jobs and provide a living wage to those who become providers. The value we place in our children is the value we place in our entire community.

The roots of my community and of who I am are strong and deep. We are a strong, proud and beautiful people. Preserving our history is vital to all of us. This is why my work to safeguard the sacred sites within Chaco Canyon has brought me to the forefront of collaboration with many entities and elected officials. I am proud to be a strong voice for preserving sacred and historical sites.  It is within these sacred sites we will preserve our story as our elders have instilled. I know that without our shared story as a district and as a diverse community, I would not be who I am today.

Our sacred sites are just an earlier chapter in a larger story that includes lessons in sacrifice, strength and ingenuity. Sharing these stories with the world is a priority of mine. I have always represented my communities with the utmost respect from the Arizona State Capitol to the halls of Congress in Washington DC, and to the many rural communities across Indian Country during my time with the National Indian Health Board and the National Indian Education Association. As a result, I have teamed up with Senator John Pinto by introducing a memorial to begin the process of building a National Code Talker Museum in Washington D.C., so that their contributions can be understood and recognized carefully. Our freedom is the direct result of the sacrifices of our Navajo Code Talkers during the Second World War.

I am honored to serve as your Representative, and I must acknowledge the challenges facing far too many people in the district. It is not right that too many who work hard and play by the rules are unable to make ends meet. I too have faced hardships in my own life, and I believe we can work together and put the betterment of everyone ahead of politics. That is why I will continue fighting every day to ensure our stories are heard, and that our future will be filled with opportunity.

Representative Doreen Wonda Johnson was born and raised in Crownpoint, NM and has been a longtime advocate on behalf of her communities needs at both the local and national levels. Rep. Johnson has been a leader within both tribal and state government and now runs her own consulting business. Representative Johnson currently is a member of the Committee on Compacts, Education Committee, and the Regulatory and Public Affairs Committee.


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tmsyr11's picture
If no Codetalker museum, then how about a decent looking coffee mug or something that could be givin as a gift, i.e.to other Marines (retired). Goodness, the photo-laminated code talker mugs (cafe press) are both cheesy and cheap! Maybe a hunk of rough turquiouse-colored rock with the code talker seal. that would be cool!
bullbear's picture
I'm afraid I have to differ with you, Representative Johnson, although I completely support the effort to establish a Navajo Code Talker Museum. My personal feeling is that, if ever there was to be built such a museum, the location should be on the Navajo reservation. Grant it that the Washington, DC area holds a great degree of political might and certain prestige. However, these heralded veterans' homeland is the most appropriate location. How many Navajo tribal members would actually be able to afford a visit the DC area in their lifetime? A vast majority would only see photos and hear second-hand descriptions on the center. Secondly, by establishing the museum in Navajoland, that would generate visitors who in turn would also learn more about one of the largest tribes in America and thereby supporting the local economy. The DC area already has the Smithsonian National Museum of American Indian which I am certain has already done an exhibit and funded a travelling exhibit on the Navajo Code Talkers. Now, if we could only get the Navajo tribal council on board to see this long overdue project underway, the Dineh stand to benefit in many ways, ex. living memorial to the Navajo Code Talkers; language preservation; multi-use facility, and an economic boost. In conclusion, I extend my sincerest gratitude to both you and Senator Pinto for taking the initiative and lead in introducing this legislation.
arizona's picture
Rep. Johnson, The communities you represent, by vote of the electoral process, certainly needs services and aid that are prioritized in health and education. Test scores in San Juan and McKinley counties that you are representative of have a lot to be desired for. I would encourage you to focus on securing additional funding for those educational services that will prepare Navajo youth and other tribes and non-Native in those counties, for a career in the workforce and higher education. Children in those counties need better schools and supplies to help them be competitive in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math), as well as reading and writing. Reading is the foundation of learning. I've looked at the scores, have you? I would think that you know getting more funding for NM Education Initiative would be a better priority than building a museum for Navajo Code Talkers. Certainly, that is to be commended, but not needed, as there is statues in Phoenix, Santa Fe, DC, and an association that should be the leaders and in the forefront of that endeavor. Additionally, didn't the Emergency Room at the IHS in Crownpoint, NM (YOUR HOMETOWN) shut down and now people with emergencies must drive to Gallup, NM, over 50 miles away? I would think you would find a way for that ER to get re-open and more services for the IHS clinic than worry about honoring Code Talkers who are definitely worthy of praise, but most do not seek that adoration as you want to give them. Lastly, I would focus on trying to work better with your own election team, as it was featured in the news that your campaign manager--the one who helped you get elected into office--is suing you for allegedly not paying him money owed for his expertise and talents in helping you obtain your position as the voice of the people for NM Counties--San Juan and McKinley respectively. I know you have education and experience in public relations...as a former Miss Indian America, you know the issues that face all Native America, however, I would like to encourage to focus on things of substance, not glory or fame. Finally, if you would like additional discourse on housing needs, road construction, road safety, local empowerment, infrastructure, water rights, uranium exploratory committees, Navajo govt. relations, crime, gangs, jobs, and how to better be of service, I'd be happy to share my opinion. As you know, an opinion is a dime a dozen and everyone has one. Best wishes for renewed espir de corp in your administration.