Samuel Sandoval, one of the last remaining Navajo Code Talkers, has died at age 98

Samuel Sandoval in 2013

Samuel Sandoval, one of the last remaining Navajo Code Talkers who transmitted messages in World War II using a code based on their native language, has died…

Hundreds of Navajos were recruited from the vast Navajo Nation to serve as Code Talkers with the U.S. Marine Corps. Only three are still alive today: Peter MacDonald, John Kinsel Sr. and Thomas H. Begay.

The Code Talkers took part in every assault the Marines conducted in the Pacific, sending thousands of messages without error on Japanese troop movements, battlefield tactics and other communications critical to the war’s ultimate outcome. The code, based on the then-unwritten Navajo language, confounded Japanese military cryptologists and is credited with helping the U.S. win the war.

Samuel Sandoval was on Okinawa when got word from another Navajo Code Talker that the Japanese had surrendered and relayed the message to higher-ups…

The Navajo men are celebrated annually on Aug. 14. Samuel Sandoval was looking forward to that date and seeing a museum built near the Navajo Nation capital of Window Rock to honor the Code Talkers…

I met a few Code Talkers BITD when I lived in Chinle, Arizona, in the Navajo Nation. They all were treated as heroes of World War 2. Deservedly.


Navajo code talker Thomas BegayJason Jimenez/U.S.M.C

In a stunning act of solidarity, the South Korean government sent 10,000 face masks and 3.9 tons of other supplies including hand sanitizer to the Navajo Nation to honor the veterans who served during the Korean War…

About 800 Navajo men served in the war, many as Code Talkers who used their native language as an unbreakable code to confound opposing forces. Around 130 of the Navajo veterans are still alive, South Korea’s Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs said…

According to Stars and Stripes, the shipment of protective supplies meant to prevent COVID-19 infections among the Navajo tribe community was delivered in conjunction with the 70th anniversary of the Korean War…

The shipment of protective supplies is on top of the 500,000 face masks the South Korean government already sent to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to distribute to non-Navajo veterans.


How do you say ‘wookie’ in Navajo, eh?

“Spaceship” isn’t a common Navajo word. But actor James June used it a lot while working on a Navajo language version of “Star Wars IV: A New Hope.”

“It is not very often that you hear spaceship every day,” June said. “That was a new word that we had to learn. For me, it was hard. I never realized that modern Navajo has a lot of slang to it. And to speak the proper Navajo language was really challenging for me.”

“Star Wars IV: A New Hope” in Navajo played at Twin Arrows March 29 before a crowd of about 150 people – it is the first major motion picture where Navajo is spoken throughout the movie in an effort to have people learn and be engaged with the Navajo language.

Manny Wheeler is the director of the Navajo Nation Museum. In 2013, he worked with a small group of people to dub the movie into Navajo. He said the voice performances in Navajo took only 90 days to record – where a usual dubbing of a movie in Hollywood would take six to eight months.

“That is a huge feat,” Wheeler said. “From the moment they started translating to the moment we showed it at the Fourth of July fair, it was 90 days. Even by Hollywood standards that is a very, very big accomplishment. There were a lot of people who worked really hard to make it happen…”

“We’re doing it to bring awareness to language preservation,” Wheeler said. “We’re trying to say the language and we’re trying to bring awareness. With this, I really think we’re bringing awareness because the movie by itself isn’t going to save our language but it is going to lead to other things. In a sense we are saving our language. But, more importantly right now, we’re bringing awareness as to why we should know our language.”

A truly worthwhile read. I guess most Americans haven’t confronted language and culture preservation once they’re 2nd or 3rd generation-born in the USA. For Native Americans, for many immigrants, these are critical questions. More so – in my mind – for First Nation folks because every tribal reservation, every independent nation is surrounded by an American, Canadian or Mexican society that consciously or otherwise considers itself superior.

Language is so much a part of the process. Both my Canadian-Scots grandfather and my Italian grandfather forgot their native language entirely out of dedication to “fitting in”. Eduardo Trotta was pushed into the process the day he left Ellis Island by a bureaucrat who decided his name should be Edward Trotter.

RTFA. It prompts and provokes discussions that are especially relevant in a society that in daily practice rarely considers the topic important.


Lessons at Navajo hospital about births

Uutsi’yma’s name is read aloud to his first sunrise – a Hopi tradition

After less than two hours in the maternity ward, with her boyfriend, his mother and a nurse-midwife by her side, Jacquelynn Torivio gave birth to a five-pound, five-ounce son with his grandmother’s dimples and a full head of shiny black hair.

As she held him, Ms. Torivio’s spirits clearly matched her Hopi name, Nuquahynum — “a feather flying high.”

It was the kind of birth that many women in the United States could only wish for. Ms. Torivio had a vaginal birth, even though her previous child had been delivered by Caesarean section. Because of that prior surgery, many hospitals would not have let her even try to give birth vaginally, but would have required another Caesarean.

The Tuba City Regional Health Care Corporation is different. Its hospital, run by the Navajo Nation and financed partly by the Indian Health Service, prides itself on having a higher than average rate of vaginal births among women with a prior Caesarean, and a lower Caesarean rate over all.

As Washington debates health care, this small hospital in a dusty desert town on an Indian reservation, showing its age and struggling to make ends meet, somehow manages to outperform richer, more prestigious institutions when it comes to keeping Caesarean rates down, which saves money and is better for many mothers and infants…

Tuba City…hospital, with about 500 births a year, could probably teach the rest of the country a few things about obstetrical care. But matching its success would require sweeping, fundamental changes in medical practice, like allowing midwives to handle more deliveries and removing the profit motive for performing surgery…

The national Caesarean rate, 31.8 percent, has been rising steadily for the last 11 years and is fed by repeat patients. Critics say that doctors are performing too many Caesareans, needlessly exposing women and infants to surgical risks and running up several billion dollars a year in excess bills, precisely the kind of overuse that a health care overhaul is supposed to address.

RTFA. Long, detailed, informational..

Not so incidentally, the sort of public health hospital that Ronald Reagan tried to abolish. Profits before people ain’t nothing new.