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American Indians who sent coded messages to shield U.S. military communications from the enemy during World Wars I and II are being honored later this month at the nation’s capital.
Several South Dakota and North Dakota tribes are among 33 tribes to be recognized as part of the Congressional Gold Medal ceremony in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 20, for the Native American code talkers, South Dakota’s congressional delegation said in a statement.
Code talkers used their native language to send communications that enemies could not decode.
Toni Red Cloud, who lives on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, said her late father, Melvin, and late uncle, William, were code talkers. She’s still learning details of their service to the country because they never talked about it in front of her or her sisters.
“It’s an honor,” she said Friday of her father and uncle being honored posthumously. “The whole family was patriotic. He (her father) kept us respectful of the flag and the country that he served. That was just the way he raised us.”
At least three other deceased Oglala Lakota code talkers from the reservation also will be recognized.
“It’s a big honor, especially for the Lakota,” Tribal President Bryan Brewer said. “The Navajo, they’re real famous for their code talkers, but our story has always been kind of quiet. This is a once-in-a-lifetime deal for the families.”
The Congressional Gold Medal is one of the highest honors bestowed by Congress.
“Drawing from their ancient heritage, the code talkers helped transform modern history through a system that was as effective as it was ingenious,” U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem said. “It is long overdue that we recognize the power and relief these code talkers brought our county and Allied forces.”
Other South Dakota tribes being recognized are the Rosebud Sioux, Cheyenne River Sioux, Crow Creek Sioux, Lower Brule Sioux and Yankton Sioux. The Standing Rock Sioux and Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate, in South Dakota and North Dakota, also are being honored.