Navajo Code Talkers

Chester Nez, the last surviving member of the original 29 Navajo Code Talkers, will be the subject of filmmaker David DeJonge‘s 30-minute documentary. “Chester is the last link from the Navajo people who forged a secret code that helped win the Second World War. Their code led to the training of 400+ additional Navajo code talkers.


To record his story in first hand is critical to American and military history.” DeJonge said. DeJonge who is well known for his work with the last WWI veteran Frank Buckles, and also his documentary “Pershing’s Last Patriot”, began producing the documentary on Nez after a visit to Gallup, New Mexico. Nez served with the United States Marines in the Pacific and helped defeat the Japanese by creating a code, using the Navajo language, that was never broken. Sent to a boarding school as a child, Nez and other Navajo children were discouraged from speaking their native language and instructed to only use English, but that didn’t stop them from whispering Navajo to each other in secret. In 1942, Navajo were recruited from boarding schools to join the Marines and use their unique skills to develop an unbreakable code to pass messages. The film will tell Nez’s story from childhood through today. Nez’s recently published memoir, written with Judith Avila and titled Code Talker, is the only book about the code talkers by one of the 29 original Navajo Marine volunteers. Avila also will be a consultant on the film. “Most people think that the famous and unbroken Navajo code consisted of simply speaking Navajo. But that wasn’t the case. Even other Navajos could not crack the code – unless they had been trained as code talkers,” Avila stated. In addition to filming Chester Nez, DeJonge will be interviewing several additional codetalkers who used the code that Chester’s team developed. DeJonge hopes to record several conversations of Chester Nez speaking the codes that he helped develop and used during WWII. Filming will continue this spring. An initial grant from the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation of Montana is supporting the project. DeJonge is seeking an additional $37,000 in donations to complete the project. Interested parties should contact him through this website. –

List of Names of Code Talkers
When Navajos Fought Japanese for Ne-He-Mah
Navajo verb is "like a tiny imagist poem." na'il-dil means "You are accustomed to eat plural separable objects one at a time." This linguistic and phonetic complexity makes the language not only difficult for non-Navajos to understand but almost impossible to counterfeit. also see

Navajo Codetalkers Dictionary

Navajo Code Talkers lobby for Native language bill
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
Three Navajo Code Talker are in Washington, D.C., to push for passage of the Esther Martinez Native American Language Act.
Keith Little, Merril Sandoval and Samuel Tso used the Navajo language to create an unbreakable code during World War II. They are visiting the White House and Congress to lobby for the importance of preserving all Native languages.
"The Navajo Code Talkers have been called into action one more time; they\ are taking to Capitol Hill this week in an unprecedented effort to save one of America's greatest legacies -- its Native languages," said Ryan Wilson, the president of the National Alliance to Save Native Languages and president of the National Indian Education Association.
H.R.4766 would authorize the Department of Heath and Human Services to award grants for language immersion programs. It passed the House before Congress went on recess but was held up in the Senate.
The bill is named after Esther Martinez, a Tewa language instructor who was killed in an auto accident shortly after receiving a National Heritage Fellowship.

Navajo Temperment Differences

(1) Bruce Lepper: Do you think that the Navajo, who have innate patience, do not have this choice, whereas you do, because you are from a culture where paying a lot of attention to time is what you describe as a culturally arbitrary value? And does it not seem likely, in view of the existence of this innate temperament among the Navajo, that we are all carrying innate temperaments, some of them intact, some of them vestigial, depending on the historical stability of our biological groups?

(2) Jay R. Feierman: That's a very thought provoking question, which I've thought about for the past 35 years. The Navajo seem to have innate calmness, as it can be demonstrated on the first day of life, based on the work of Dan Freedman, who measured activity levels in the newborn nursery of Navajo compared to non-Navajo babies. Also, the few Navajos I know who have been adopted at birth by Anglos also have this same calm disposition to them. I also delivered about 300 Navajo babies and when Navajo women are in labor, for the most part they remain relatively calm and don't make the loud type of sounds which I was used to hearing from Anglo women in labor. So in terms of calmness, I don't believe its a choice for them, its just the way they are. However, I suspect that the innate calm disposition of the Navajo and their inattentiveness to time are two separate issues, with the former being innate and the latter being culturally acquired.
In terms of time there is very little that a traditional Navajo sheep herder living on the reservation needs to do at one hour which couldn't wait a few hours or even a few days. When I was living with them in the early 1970s, most of the traditional Navajo didn't wear wrist watches. If they'd tell you they were coming to see you on one day, they may come sometime that week. They also were not into numbers. They didn't know off the top of their head numerical things which Anglos knew, such as how old they were and even how many children they had, if they had a lot of children (average was 6.7 children/family). When one would ask a traditional Navajo woman how many children she had (through a translator), she would say each name out loud and hold up a different finger for each name and then give the total number. When traditional Navajo go off the reservation to the University, the time demands are often very difficult for them. Yet, some of them do adapt and go on to get advanced degrees and work in the time conscious business world. About 15 years ago, when pagers and cell phones were just becoming part of the required equipment of a technocrat, my Navajo friends from the reservation, who would stay with us in our house when they came to Albuquerque to shop, would laugh every time my pager or cell phone rang. They didn't even have a landline phone and probably checked their mail every few weeks in the post office.
So what I learned from them was that my adherence to exact time schedules was culturally arbitrary, although necessary to get the kinds of things done I was doing in the industrialized world. When I said that I learned about patience from them, what I really learned was the arbitrary nature of my time adherence. Their innate calmness made it easy for them to sit and wait without appearing impatient, but that was also because they also didn't have a lot of other things on their schedule to do that day.
There have been times in my life where I have had to wait long periods of time, such as having to wait in an airport for a flight which has been delayed 24 hours. When I've had to do that, I have wished that waiting was as easy for me as it is for the Navajo. Also, I learned to culturally adapt to their quiet and patient ways when I was living with them. We had a 4 wheel drive Jeep, as there were only about four paved roads on the reservation, which was bigger than the state of Connecticut. When we'd be out in the middle of nowhere and picked up a Navajo walking, the Navajo would get in the Jeep and say nothing. After a half hour or hour, the Navajo would make a motion with his or her hand that this is where they wanted to get off. They just wouldn't talk, even if they could speak English. At best, they would answer questions with monosyllable answers but one got the impression that it was a strain on them to make small talk. The mother of a Navajo woman friend, who married an Anglo man, used to say about this man that he didn't talk much "for an Anglo."
In response to your last question, we probably all do carry "innate temperaments, some of them intact, some of them vestigial, depending on the historical stability of our biological groups?" However, in an amalgamated society, such as the United States, it is much more difficult to make generalizations about groups as it is with the Navajo, who although now number in the hundreds of thousands, may all be the descendants of one small hunter-gather band of a few dozen individuals, which migrated from central Alaska to the American southwest a only a few hundred years ago. I hope I answered your question in this rambling reply.~ Regards, Jay R. Feierman

Pair study American Indian languages to preserve them Oregon: The Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla say only 44 elders among its 2,525 tribal members still fluently speak their three native languages: Cayuse, Nez Perce and Walla Walla.  To help preserve those languages, the tribe has received $585,000 in grants to create language classes on reservation schools and master-apprentice teams for elders to pass on the language to others. At the end of three years, apprentices may become licensed as language teachers.  "It's been the best year of my life, the most enlightened," said apprentice Linda Sampson.  "It's opened my eyes."  Sampson hopes the program will spark renewed interest in learning tribal languages, something she believes is crucial.  "Every tribe has the same  goal -- keeping their language going," she said.  "You can preserve it, but  you've got to transfer it to your kids."  113070774232722