Cherokee Code Talkers honored with medal
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation and 30 other tribes accepted a Congressional Gold Medal at the U.S. Capitol on Nov. 20 to honor Native American Code Talkers.
“It’s wonderful that United States Congress is honoring Code Talkers in this way,” CN Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. said. “Of course, the Cherokee Nation is proud of our contributions to multiple war efforts and our involvement with the Code Talkers, so it’s fitting we commemorate it, especially during Native American Heritage Month.”??
Native Americans, Cherokees in particular, have a longstanding history of serving the military at a higher rate than the general U.S. population. The U.S. military employed Cherokees and other tribal citizens, such as the Navajo and Choctaw, as Code Talkers to pass messages in their Native languages to confuse and bypass enemy forces.??
“This is one way to recognize the importance of Native Americans’ service in the defense of the United States,” CN veterans representative Raymond Vann said. “Many who served did so at a time when the federal government's policies toward Indian Nations were unfriendly. Yet, so many Indian people served to fight for freedom, and the Code Talkers served in such an extraordinary way using their language to help turn the tide.”??
There is no firm number on how many Cherokees were Code Talkers, but CN officials said they are researching that figure.
CN Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden, a Navy Vietnam veteran, accepted the Congressional Gold Medal on behalf of the tribe.??
CN Tribal Councilors, Cabinet members and CN employees who worked with the U.S. Mint to help design the Cherokee Code Talkers coin will also attend.
Congress is presenting gold medals designed for each tribe in accordance with the “Code Talkers Recognition Act of 2008.” The act, Public Law 110-420, says Native American Code Talkers, first reported in use on Oct. 17, 1918, deserve immediate recognition for their dedication and valor, long overdue.
The Cherokee Nation Code Talker coin includes the image of a Cherokee Code Talker with a Cherokee syllabary font that translates to “code talkers.” On the reverse side of the coin is the Cherokee Nation seal.
According to the National Congress of American Indians, Native American Code Talkers played a significant role in Allied victories during the major campaigns of World War I and World War II. While Navajo Code Talkers have been acknowledged and awarded Congressional Gold Medals for their service, what is not known widely is the extensive participation for these purposes by Native Code Talkers from dozens of tribes, according to the NCAI.
The NCAI states that Code Talkers from various tribal nations served as highly classified specialists on dangerous battlegrounds and were so valuable that their commanding officers were ordered to kill the Code Talkers in the event of imminent or actual capture. The Code Talkers were aware of this added risk to their lives and continued to face that threat every day in action.
The Congressional Gold Medal is awarded as the “highest expression of national appreciation for distinguished achievements and contributions” made by an individual or institution. Thirty-three tribes were recognized in the Nov. 20 ceremony and the families of deceased Code Talkers were honored with silver medals.