Navajo Code Talkers
NE-HE-MAH - Our mother country. Navajo Nation is a piece of land within parts of Utah, Arizona and New Mexico. The entire nation covers 27, 000 square miles. In early days and early writings when the pilgrims arrived on this continent Native Americans did not for this land so the pilgrims said so they have no rights to this land. Pioneers told of the uncivilized Native Americans who, due to the fact they were uncivilized could not own this land. Prospectors who pushed west were telling others of the Native Americans who could not speak English so they truly could not own this land. These Native Americans were pushed around by strangers.
Those strangers took their land, slaughtered their game, outlawed their worship methods and stole from their communities. The United States government settled on giving them the Navajo Nation land. Now, they had a home but we continued to involve ourselves in their lives. We forced the Navajo children to leave their parents and attend English school. They were given English names, cut their hair and punished them for using their native tongue.
The Navajo are a strong people, they held onto their language and culture with great pride and personal risk. Why then would the Native Americans who were pushed around, ravaged and treated wrongly want to protect this county? The reply was “Somebody has got to defend this country, somebody has to defend freedom.” (Nez, Avila, Colacci, & Tantor Media, 2011)
Philip Johnson and his missionary family lived on the Navajo Reservation and worked with the Navajo. Growing up with the Navajo language was really the only way to truly understand the language. Their language was basically a 411 word language, but it was how it was spoken that was the fascinating part. There were four tones used when speaking: high, low, rising and falling and depending on what tone they used went with the meaning of the word. The same word with different tones made the word change. It was not a question of do you speak Navajo, it was do you hear Navajo.
Philip worked very closely with the Navajo and was fluent in speaking their language. At the age of 9 he was asked to be the Navajo interpreter in Washington D.C when the Navajo lobbied for their rights. This got Philip thinking as he got older, he had been a veteran of World War I and at that time they had used Choctaw to encode messages. Why not use Navajo language for World War II. The Navajo language in itself has no alphabet or symbols that are written. There are less than 30 non-Navajo who can actually speak the language. What a unique idea!
Johnson went to the Commander in the Pacific Fleet and demonstrated the Navajo advantages of using their language to encode messages. He used an example they had encoded and is only took them twenty seconds to send it. This was an amazing idea because the machines they were currently using at the time took thirty minutes to encode and send.
Philip Johnson was a success. In May of 1942 the...