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.”