During WWII a group of young Navajo men enlisted in the Marines without knowing that they would be called on to develop a secret code against the Japanese military. This select group of Code Talkers devised a Navajo language code that was accurate, quick, never broken, and saved many American lives. This talk profiles 4 Code Talkers who reflect on their lives growing up on the Navajo Nation homeland, their military service as Code Talkers, and the personal and spiritual costs of war that many struggled with after the war. They returned home without fanfare to continued poverty and lack of economic opportunity, yet persevered and overcame obstacles that helped change the Navajo Nation and their communities. Their stories are told with poignancy that reflect their resiliency and self-determination. A PowerPoint presentation accompanies this talk.
Laura Tohe is Diné. She is Sleepy Rock clan born for the Bitter Water clan. She holds a Ph.D. in Indigenous American Literature. A librettist and an award-winning poet, her books include No Parole Today, Meeting the Spirit of Water, Sister Nations, Tséyi, Deep in the Rock, and Code Talker Stories. Her commissioned libretto, Enemy Slayer: A Navajo Oratorio, was performed by the Phoenix Symphony. Her new work, Nahasdzaan in the Glittering World, makes its world premiere in France 2019. She is Professor Emerita with Distinction at Arizona State University and is the Navajo Nation Poet Laureate for 2015-2019.