SHAKO: Native American Heritage Month

November 30, 2013 at 1:16 am 4 comments

America’s First Defenders

We almost let November go by without mentioning this is National Native American Heritage Month.

Wallace Coffey, chief of the Comanche Nation of Oklahoma, left, and Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma Chief Gregory Pyle stand during a ceremony in which their tribal citizens received the Congressional Gold Medal in Emancipation Hall at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., Nov. 20, 2013 (DoD photo by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Sean K. Harp)

Wallace Coffey, chief of the Comanche Nation of Oklahoma, left, and Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma Chief Gregory Pyle stand during a ceremony in which their tribal citizens received the Congressional Gold Medal in Emancipation Hall at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., Nov. 20, 2013
(DoD photo by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Sean K. Harp)

The Department of Defense has acknowledged the contributions of Native Americans to the country’s defense in a number of ceremonies, exhibits and performances. On Capitol Hill earlier in the month, Native American “code talkers” who used their tribal dialects to confuse and stymie the enemy in both Word War I and World War II, were honored in a Congressional Gold Medal ceremony.

The Marine Corps’ Navajo code talkers have gotten a lot of attention, due in part to the 2002 Nicholas Cage film Wind Talkers, but soldiers and Marines from several other tribes including the Comanche, Choctaw and Meswaki thwarted German and Japanese troops listening in on U.S. field telephone and radio communications in both world wars.

Choctaw Indian telephone squad Soldiers pose for a photo, in 1918.

Choctaw Indian telephone squad Soldiers pose for a photo, in 1918.

According to the U.S. Army, Choctaw Soldiers joined the 36th Infantry Division in October 1918, becoming some of the Army’s first code talkers. The commander of the 142nd Infantry Regiment, said of them: “The enemy’s complete surprise is evidence that he could not decipher the message.” Within 24 hours after the Choctaw sent their first message, the tide of battle turned and U.S. soldiers drove the Germans out of Foret Ferme, France and the Army set up a Choctaw training program.

Comanche code-talkers of the 4th Signal Company (U.S. Army Signal Center and Ft. Gordon)

Comanche code-talkers of the 4th Signal Company
(U.S. Army Signal Center and Ft. Gordon)

Native Americans didn’t just serve as code talkers. In the Civil War, the Cherokee and other tribes living in what is now the state of Oklahoma fought for both the Blue and the Gray. The War of 1812 also split the Creek (Muscogee) Indians and other tribes in the Southeastern United States. There were Indians with Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders in the Spanish-American War and Indians fought on both sides in the Revolutionary War.

Click here to see a list of American Indians who were awarded the Medal of Honor by the U.S. Army. And click here for some first person accounts of Native Americans who served in World W II, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq. Visit the Defense Department web page to learn more about Native Americans in uniform.

Corp. Henry Bake, Jr., and PFC. George H. Kirk, Navajos serving with a Marine Signal Unit in the Pacific War on the island of Bougainville in 1943. (Marine Corps photo)

Corp. Henry Bake, Jr., and PFC. George H. Kirk, Navajos serving with a Marine Signal Unit in the Pacific War on the island of Bougainville in 1943.
(Marine Corps photo)

488px-Shako-p1000580

SHAKO is an occasional 4GWAR posting on military history, traditions and culture. For the uninitiated, a shako is the tall, billed headgear worn by many armies from the Napoleonic era to about the time of the American Civil War. It remains a part of the dress or parade uniform of several military organizations like the corps of cadets at the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, New York.

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Entry filed under: National Security and Defense, Skills and Training, Special Operations, Technology, Weaponry and Equipment. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , .

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4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Brittius  |  November 30, 2013 at 8:12 am

    Reblogged this on Brittius.com.

    Reply
  • 3. Brittius  |  December 2, 2013 at 5:31 pm

    Absolutely. A Cherokee Elder said something very profound, that needs to be considered. All the people born on land belonging to America, really belong to the American Indian tribes, and should honorably live their lives. Recognizing personal sacrifice of others, living quietly, and being respectful. The Elder said when the people fail to do this, and when the leaders of the nation fail to do this, there is nothing but trouble and misery for the nation and the people.

    My background is that I am a USMC Vietnam veteran, and retired police officer. I at one time owned a piece of land where my house was, and it was on land deeded as the Western Squaw Pit, where a fresh water stream ran through. The women would go there to prepare food, bathe, and give birth. I kept a little over half of it in natural condition with the ancient foot trails. The Elders loved it, and the Town went to war against me. Harassment was insane. The Town had people that wanted to develop the land. Eventually I could do no more and sold it. Today, the Town can be so proud, as gang members and blight replace an honorable land. Sad.

    Reply
    • 4. John M. Doyle  |  December 3, 2013 at 4:20 pm

      Wise words from that Cherokee elder — and a challenge to all of us who have “inherited” the land. I’m sorry to hear about the troubles you had tyring to maintain the land you owned in its original state. It is sad.

      Reply

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