2017-03-23 / Front Page

Lakota Code Talkers Awarded Congressional Gold Medals


Standing Rock Sioux Veterans Service Officer Manaja Hill Courtesy Dennis Neumann Standing Rock Sioux Veterans Service Officer Manaja Hill Courtesy Dennis Neumann WAKPALA – Two weeks before the 100th anniversary of the nation’s entry into the First World War Lakota veterans of the U.S. Army posthumously received recognition for their service as code talkers.

Although many people have heard about the Navajo Code Talkers of World War Two, far fewer are familiar with the Native code talkers from other tribes. For example, there were 63 Standing Rock Sioux code talkers.

Nor do they realize there were Native code talkers during World War One, including the 17 Standing Rock Sioux tribal members whose descendants were given Congressional Gold Medals in their honor in a “Wanahma Woglakapi Wichoh’an Wakhan” (Talking To Hid Things) ceremony at the Wakpala Public School on March 17.

Standing Rock Sioux Veterans Service Officer Manaja Hill noted that the tribe’s code talkers were fighting in the trenches along the Western Front in “The War to End All Wars” 7 years before Native Americans were granted citizenship by the United States.

Congressional Gold Medal for Standing Rock Sioux code talkers. Courtesy Dennis Neumann Congressional Gold Medal for Standing Rock Sioux code talkers. Courtesy Dennis Neumann And, he observed, the reason they served was to defend their people and ancestral lands.

“So, their commitment and their willingness to fight for, truly, our way of life and our land,” said Hill. “Their families…their relatives. Truly that’s what it was. Because there was none of this patriotic stuff that goes on now. We weren’t citizens. They weren’t citizens. What they fought for was what they believed in. And that came from the heart. It can’t come from anywhere else.”

Hill added that it was also less a matter of code-talking than of the Lakota simply speaking their language.

“During this period of time I think very few of our ancestors knew the English language,” he said. “And the people who were listening… even on our side…couldn’t understand what they were saying. So I think the term code talker is misinterpreted to a large degree because our ancestors didn’t know how to speak English.”

Despite the reality of this situation, their superiors had enormous trust in the Lakota code talkers.

“To tell them what to say…” continued Hill, “not knowing themselves what was actually being said. I think that trust that the United States government put into our soldiers is overlooked a lot. So that’s a commitment, that’s a dedication far beyond anybody’s comprehension. And the more you think about where they were and where they went in order to do their jobs…they truly were warriors.”

Regardless of any personal language issues, Lakota code talkers helped win the war by baffling the enemy when transmitting telephone messages for the Allies. As a result the families of 17 World War One code talkers from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe were presented with Congressional Gold Medals for their ancestors’ service to the country.

“Personally, I need to sit down and think about what these individuals went through and were committed to,” commented Hill. “These guys really had to have had the understanding, the knowledge and the will.

The Standing Rock Sioux was among nearly three dozen tribes that used their Native languages as an unbreakable code to communicate vital information during World Wars One and Two. The code talkers were often not recognized at the time because the program was classified.

The Congressional Gold Medals were awarded now after extensive research by the U.S. Army on which soldiers were Lakota code talkers.

The Standing Rock Sioux code talkers who were honored include: James W. Alkire; Henry A. Ankle, Sr.; Wallace Cross Bear (a.k.a. Walter Cross Bear); Ambrose Gabe; Charles Has Horns; Jasper Iron Cloud; Edward A. Laframboise; Eli Little Bird; Isaac Looking Back; George Loves War; Harry Loves The War; Edmund Many Deeds, Sr.; Matthew Oka; Charles Red Bear; Benedict Red Legs; Jesse Taken Alive and Eugene Walking Elk.

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