Am I the only person who has never heard of this amazing tidbit of our nation’s history? I’ve been teaching history for years, but this had escaped my notice. There is even a movie on the subject as well as several other publications. I was amazed to learn the following:
- During the first part of the twentieth century, Native American children were educated in US government schools in an effort to “Americanize” them. They were not allowed to speak their native tongue or participate in cultural traditions. At all.
- When our military had difficulty inventing unbreakable codes during the First World War, they decided to use Native American languages instead, recruiting these men to develop code for them.
- The Choctaws were the first Native Americans to work on code in World War I. Other tribes included Apache and Osage, as well as a few others.
- The Navajo Code was developed for use in World War II, employing basic Navajo words – like their word for “whale,” for instance – for American military terms – like aircraft carrier. They also assigned words for letters, much like our phonetic alphabet of today using Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, etc., in order to facilitate the spelling of words not included in the code.
- Since the Navajo language was not written at that point, and because it was such a complex language in tonal qualities, the code was unbreakable.
- Without the Navajo Code Talkers, we would not have won at Iwo Jima.
How interesting! But what grabbed my attention even more was the realization of how often we overlook the treasures right under our noses until we have dire need of them. Before the World Wars, Native American languages and cultures were demeaned, yet they held the key to our victory.
I wonder what treasures might be hiding right under my nose, what blessings God has put in my path that I haven’t even noticed, much less learned to cherish and employ?
How about you?
· What insignificant treasures have you discovered that have changed your life?
· Do you have a favorite little-known tidbit of national history?
I’d love to hear about them!
For more information: http://www.navajocodetalkers.org/