Sealaska sponsors lecture of code talkers

Military veterans or immediate family who served as code talkers during World War II were honored during a ceremony Wednesday in Washington, D.C. in November 2013. Five Southeast Alaska residents were honored during the ceremony and received silver medals.

Sealaska Heritage Institute and Sealaska will sponsor two free lectures on Tlingit and Navajo code talkers this week in celebration of Native American Heritage Month.

Starting at noon on Tuesday, Nov. 22, at the at the Walter Soboleff Building, the lectures will feature Southeast Alaska Native Veterans Commander Ozzie Sheakley and Judith Avila, author of the best-selling book “Code Talker: The First and Only Memoir by One of the Original Navajo Code Talkers of WWII.”

Sheakley will talk about Tlingit code talkers Mark Jacobs, Jr., Harvey Jacobs, George Lewis, Jr., Robert “Jeff” David, Sr., and Richard Bean, Sr., and their Congressional Gold and Silver Medals.

[Tlingit code talkers honored with Congressional Silver Medals]

Avila will provide the context of the work of code talkers through her lecture “Code Talker — Looking through the Eyes of Navajo Marine Chester Nez (1921–2014).” She will be accompanied by Chester Nez’s grandson, Latham Nez.

“During the war, the Japanese had cracked every code the United States used,” said SHI president Rosita Worl, “but when the Marines turned to Navajo, Tlingit and other Native American recruits to develop and implement a secret military language, they created the only unbroken codes in modern warfare — and helped assure victory for the United States over Japan in the South Pacific.”

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