Remembering Native Code Talkers.

navajo_code_talkersNiles Aserat, a Navajo veteran, would like a little help to see that Code talkers receive the honour they more than earned, and deserve.

As so often happens in our American history books, the contributions of a group of volunteer Native servicemen called code talkers, has been severely understated. Code talkers were our warriors doing what they have always been inspired to do – protect their homeland, families and culture. Despite having often been harshly treated for speaking in their Native languages, these warriors valiantly served for the United States and by using their beautiful Native languages these hero soldiers became pivotal in helping to win two of the most crucial wars in U.S. history – World Wars I & II.

The buzz this 4th of July is a petition to get a National Native Code Talkers Day on the radar of the U.S. Senate. The campaign was begun by Vietnam Veteran and Navajo Elder, Niles Aserat. Now a resident of Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Niles grew up on the Navajo reservation in Sanders, Arizona. Niles joined the Army in 1966 and saw firsthand the brutality of war. He and only one other man in his brigade of 178 men, survived a vicious ambush at the infamous battle of Hamburger Hill.

After reading a book about code talkers, Aserat found himself inspired to spread the word about their amazing contribution and self sacrifice which turned the tides of war in the favor of the U.S. During WWII, military Marine Corp recruiters visited the Navajo reservation and understanding the threat facing their homeland from foreign invaders again, the first group of 29 brave warriors volunteered and developed a sophisticated code which was never deciphered by the enemies.

The story at ICTMN is here. The Petition: National Day for All Native American Code Talkers. The website for the petition: Native Code Talkers.


  1. Crimson Clupeidae says

    FWIW, they prefer to call themselves Dinae. :-)

    I have had the honor of meeting a couple of the WW2 code talkers here in Az. Very humble men and I would love to see them be honored appropriately.

  2. says


    FWIW, they prefer to call themselves Dinae. :-)

    Not all of them. It’s Diné. :D Niles prefers Navajo (Naabeehó Bináhásdzo), and that’s good enough for me. (Among my own, some still prefer Oglala Sioux to Oglala Lakota.)

  3. blf says

    I was astonished that a number of intelligent friends and colleagues of mine didn’t know anything about the code talkers until some movie (which I’ve never seen and can’t even recall the title of) came out some years ago. I myself have almost-always known of them (since Jr High if not before), and admittedly assumed the story was widely known. My own best guess is I’ve always had an interest in codes and ciphers, and unsurprisingly the code talkers are a famous story within that community. (I’m fairly certain the first in-depth history I read of the code talkers was in David Kahn’s The Codebreakers (original edition) in, well, Jr High…)

  4. Johnny Vector says

    I am the poet of battle
    My tongue keeps our secrets and ways
    Wrapped in a mystery, all for a victory
    Twenty-nine heroes protecting our days.

  5. says

    Johnny Vector:

    I am the poet of battle
    My tongue keeps our secrets and ways
    Wrapped in a mystery, all for a victory
    Twenty-nine heroes protecting our days.

    That’s lovely. Thanks.

  6. Johnny Vector says

    Thanks. There’s a whole song to go with that chorus, but I’ve never been happy with the recording we made. Someday I’ll have another go at mixing it, or re-recording, or something.

  7. DonDueed says

    The thing that I find fascinating about the Code Talkers is that they didn’t just send messages translated into Navajo. Yes, they did that, but also used many other verbal tricks so even a Navajo speaker wouldn’t know what they were talking about unless they were clued in.

    From what I’ve read, the Navajo are fond of wordplay and other forms of subtle humor. Navajos were often used as extras in Western movies, and I’ve read that when directors had them “talk Injun” to each other they would slip in language that would have the theaters roaring with laughter when those movies were shown on the Res.

  8. blf says

    DonDueed, Yes, there were numerous verbal tricks also used, one reason being so that if the enemy ever “deciphered” the native language, they still wouldn’t understand what was going on. As I recall — this is all from memory so I’m probably making mistakes here — two things they tried to never send “in the clear”(albeit in the native language) were locations and dates; they also didn’t use the “official” codewords / phrases (for anything?); and these changed / evolved during the course of the war. By not using “official” codewords / phrases, or location names(which probably didn’t have “translations”?), the enemy would not be able to gain any clews or correlations with either what happened, or with information gained by other means. The messages would sound like “gibberish”, and the “gibberish” kept changing in quite unpredictable ways. In was not a straightforward “translation” into the native language at all, albeit that was a critical part of the scheme.

  9. Brother Ogvorbis, Fully Defenestrated Emperor of Steam, Fire and Absurdity says

    One of the Navajo boys who drifted in and out of my class in Arizona (his mom and dad were seasonal employees of the NPS and Fred Harvey) had an uncle who had served with the Marines in WWII. A little guy, maybe 5’1″, 110 pounds. He was never a code talker — ended up carrying a BAR (they always gave it to the smallest man in the platoon) — but he knew some.

    He spoke to our class one year around Memorial Day. Told that it had taken him about fifteen years to find peace with what he had done to other human beings. Which was a real wake-up to me — the WWII books I had been reading at the time (maybe fourth or fifth grade?) were quite othering of Japanese soldiers and thinking of them as people was a bit of a shock. He also talked about the ones who never came back — who were either killed or, like Ira Hayes (a Pima Indian), came back bodily, but not in spirit.


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