Unraveling the “Secrecy” of Native American Code Talking

Friday, January 8, 2016: 11:10 AM
Room A706 (Atlanta Marriott Marquis)
William Meadows, Missouri State University
Scholarly and popular interest in Native American Code Talkers and recognition of their service has steadily increased since the official declassification of the Navajo Code in 1968. Since that time, the Navajo formed the Navajo Code Talker's Association in 1971 and were presented with Congressional Gold and Silver medals in 2001. In 2013, thirty-three other tribes were awarded similar Congressional medals. While long overdue, this recognition has also fostered the appearance and growth of a number of growing misconceptions regarding Native American Code Talkers. Foremost is the recent claim by numerous individuals, scholars, tribal nations, state legislators, and even departments of the United States Government, that all code talkers were sworn to secrecy regarding their service. Using an ethnohistorical and ethnographic approach, this work tests the validity of this belief, the nature of secrecy associated with Native American Code Talking in World War I and II, and the factors behind these developments by combining accounts from code talkers, military officers, newspapers, and scholars.
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