A Code Talkerís Wife

Friday, January 8, 2016: 10:30 AM
Room A706 (Atlanta Marriott Marquis)
Farina King, Arizona State University
This paper presents a narrative of a Navajo Code Talker’s wife that King wrote based on a personal interview with her aunt, Helen Smith, the spouse of Albert Smith and stepdaughter of one of the original twenty-nine Navajo Code Talkers. Two of King’s uncles, Albert and George Smith, served in World War II as Navajo Code Talkers. Ever since high school, she has studied the Navajo Code Talkers, and she would visit her uncles until they passed away. She gradually developed biographies of her uncles, realizing that their lives pertained to history beyond their extraordinary experiences in the Pacific arena of World War II. King’s initial interest in her uncle Albert’s life story inspired her to interview his wife, Helen. In a phone conversation with her aunt, King began to understand how the lives of the Code Talker and his wife reveal more than a history of World War II. Their lives and biographies demonstrate the situation of many American Indians in times surrounding the war. Helen Smith’s references of boarding school experiences, the shell shock that killed her step-father, her struggles to afford groceries, to her concerns of her grandchildren may be the reflection of only one American Indian woman’s life. However, her story represents a core part of history—the human realities of individuals who make history and are praised as historic heroes. Helen’s struggles before and after World War II unveil the history of an American minority who continued to suffer repercussions after the past forced removal and challenges of her indigenous people during the nineteenth-century.
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