On November 20, representatives from 33 tribes were in attendance at the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. as the United States government honored members from each tribe with the U.S. Congressional Gold Medal recognizing the work of code talkers other than the Navajo code talkers during World War I and II.
Among those in attendance were Osage Nation Principal Chief John D. Red Eagle, Assistant Principal Chief Scott Bighorse, Osage Veteran John Henry Mashunkashey, his wife Ahnawake, and Osage Congressman John Maker.
Gold medals were distributed to the tribes present in Emancipation Hall, followed by a reception at the Smithsonian’s Museum of the American Indian where silver versions of the medals were given to families of the Native veterans being honored and recognized as code talkers.
Red Eagle accepted the gold medal from John Boehner, speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives for the Osage warriors that spoke the Osage language during combat in WWI and WWII.
This was the first time for the Osage Nation, like many other tribes, that its code talkers were honored for their efforts during WWI. “We had code talkers in artillery and infantry, who spoke to one another on radios calling information back and forth about incoming rounds” Mashunkashey said.
“Previously the tribes had been reluctant to talk about their code talking during World War I and II. President George W. Bush made it public so that we could talk about it,” Mashunkashey said. “The Navajo code talkers were honored first because they had a program that was developed by the Marine Corps during World War II.” Later, Code Talkers were acknowledged in the Code Talkers Recognition Act of 2008, he explained.
The medals that the tribes received are all unique to the tribe, one reason it took longer for all the tribes to be recognized. The Osage coin depicts an Osage code talker on the front with the tribal seal on the back.
Family members of Osage World War I veterans can receive a silver version of the medal once the Department of Defense confirms verification. A family can provide proof through written documents and photos of the veteran to the DOD. Families who may be unsure can visit the Osage Tribal Museum and Library where a list of veterans who served in World War I is available. The compiled information can then be shared with Mashunkashey, who will assist in getting the information to the DOD. He can be e-mailed at: firstname.lastname@example.org (new e-mail address).
Bronze versions of the coin are available for purchase in two sizes, 3” ($39.95) and 1.5” ($6.95) at www.usmint.gov.
Principal Chief Red Eagle, who accepted the award on behalf of the Osage Nation said, “It was a very honorable experience to be there to accept this for all the veterans who served in these wars. I had a sense that we were representing all Osage veterans.” He added, “We want the Osage people and the Osage veterans to know about this honor.”
Assistant Chief Scott BigHorse said, “We were honored to accept this beautiful gold coin on behalf of all of the Osages who spoke the Osage language during combat.”