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Osages receive U.S. Congressional Gold Medal honoring Native American code talkers

The U.S. Congress issued its highest honors to the Native American code talker era with a Congressional Gold Medal ceremony on Nov. 20.

That day, the code talkers and leaders from 33 tribes who had members serving in wars involving code talker missions involving their Native languages received the prestigious gold medals at the event held in Emancipation Hall.

Osage military veterans John Henry Mashunkashey and Congressman John Maker attended along with Principal Chief John Red Eagle and Assistant Principal Chief Scott BigHorse.

According to the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, the Osage tribe was among six tribes which had military servicemen using their language as code talker soldier during World War I. Each participating tribe had at least two servicemen who were code talkers, according to NMAI research.

Chief Red Eagle received a gold medal at the ceremony on behalf of the Osage Nation.

Maker, a U.S. Army veteran, said he received an email invite to the ceremony. His fellow Osage Congressional colleagues announced the invite during the Oct. 29 special session.

Congressman Archie Mason read Maker’s email invitation for the Nov. 20 event out loud and everyone in the Congressional chambers applauded Maker. “I know you’ll represent us well,” Osage Congressional Speaker Raymond Red Corn told Maker.

Before his election to the Osage Congress in 2012, Maker worked as an Osage language instructor in the ON Language Department.

According to a U.S. Congressional news release, the Nov. 20 gold medal ceremony awarded the honor – called the Congressional highest expression of appreciation for distinguished achievements and contributions – to each tribe that participated in the code talker program used during World Wars I and II.

Several tribes, including the Navajo and Comanche, had tribal members who served in the military and used their languages as a code to communicate with fellow U.S. forces during wartime via radio airwaves. The U.S. enemies, during these wars, were never able to decipher the codes.

For more information on Native American code talker contributions to the military, visit the educational online page “Native Words, Native Warriors” on the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian website at: http://nmai.si.edu/education/codetalkers/