When many people think of the world-famous code talkers, the Native Americans who used their language to transmit messages in wartime that enemies could not decipher, they immediately think of the Navajo tribe. Earlier this month, the United States government finally awarded the Congressional Gold Medal to the “forgotten” code talkers who were members of other tribes.
Edmond Harjo, a 96-year-old member of the Seminole Nation in Oklahoma, was one of the code talkers who received the country’s highest civilian honour November 21. Tribe members from across the US, some as far away as Alaska, attended the ceremony in Washington.
Although Navajo code talkers received the medal in 2000, the process to recognize those from other tribes did not begin until 2008’s Code Talkers Recognition Act, which aimed to celebrate the contributions of all Native American code talkers from both World Wars.
“Native American Code Talkers of the First and Second World Wars are true American heroes without whose efforts our troops would have certainly suffered greater casualties and would have certainly experienced slower progress in their efforts to end these conflicts,’’ said Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), a member of the Chickasaw Nation. “For too long, our country has failed to recognize the efforts made by these great Native American citizens.’’