During WWII a group of young Navajo men enlisted in the Marines unaware that they would 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. Excerpts from live interviews with the Code Talkers tell their stories before, during, and after the war that reflect their resiliency and their service to the U.S., a country that once tried to erase Navajo identity and language in the schools. Without fanfare the Code Talkers returned home to continued poverty and lack of opportunity and yet persevered. They overcame obstacles that helped change the Navajo Nation and their communities. Over twenty years passed after their discharge before Code Talkers were honored for their service by U.S. Presidents and the Navajo Nation.
This program is cohosted by Pima County Public Library – Salazar-Ajo Branch.
About the speaker:
Laura Tohe is Diné. She is Sleepy Rock people clan born for the Bitter Water people clan and is the daughter of a Navajo Code Talker. A librettist and an award-winning poet, she has written three books of poetry, edited two books, and written an oral history book on the Navajo Code Talkers. Her commissioned libretto, Enemy Slayer, A Navajo Oratorio, world premiered for the Phoenix Symphony and her latest libretto, Nahasdzaan in the Glittering World was performed in France in 2019 and 2021. Among her awards are the 2020 Academy of American Poetry Fellowship; 2019 American Indian Festival of Writers Award; and the Arizona Book Association’s Glyph Award for Best Poetry. Tohe is Professor Emerita with Distinction from Arizona State University and is the current Navajo Nation Poet Laureate.