Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Guard of Honor

All Code Talkers Photos by Evan Robinson

Navajo Code Talkers Carry the Flag in Denver

Despite the efforts of John Woo who made that immortal Nicholas Cage movie "Brave White Guys Hang Out With Indians" there are still a lot of people who do not know the story of the Marine Code Talkers.

A lot of that is because the program itself was a very high level secret. It was not acknowledged by the government officially until 1992. By then, advances in computer cryptography had made the program obsolete on a tactical basis. That came to their realization without even figuring out that Athabascan languages are pretty much incomprehensible to non-native speakers.

There are always exceptions to this rule. One such exception was Philip Johnston. The son of missionaries, he had grown up on the Navajo rez, and spoke the language fluently. He was one of an estimated fifty people in the world who were not Navajo themselves who could speak that language.

For the history of the unit, please read what the Department of the Navy has to say.

Then, to understand some of the complexities involved with this program, check out the Code Talker's Dictionary.

The Pendolton Wool Company has issued a commemorative blanket which uses the symbols of the Code Talker's internal code. You can also find home made blankets, this is a very popular motif on the rez. Be prepared to pay for that stuff.

Remember always, these men served this country when this country would not let them vote, own private property, or bother to give them a decent school. Yet, when called, they answered. They did their duty. As. Americans. Look at the pride, look at the character in those faces, and those eyes. When I attend AA meetings back home, there are some of them there, proud and sober to boot.

They are heroes. In this filthy world, they are heroes.

Nohwi'odla nayid ntaahgoh, nhildizitigo adanizih, yexaaiidelah go deyah tc'indii

(our character has been tested, we proved strong, having been prepared we walk, all our people say this)

From The Song of the Ravens by Soulflyer, born to the Bear Clan, born for the Flute Clan

These men are soldiers. In a warrior culture, there is no higher praise.


NAU Historical Archives regarding the code talkers. Enter "code talkers" for your search. There are some wonderful documents here, including an interview with Philip Johnston. Thanks to Myrtle Hussain June. Many thanks darlin'.