This website explores the lives and experiences of American Indian Code Talkers, the servicemen who used their traditional tribal languages to transmit secret messages for the United States military during World War I and World War II. The content focuses on the Code Talkers’ wartime experiences, as well as their pre- and post-war lives. Their highly honored military achievements are placed in a larger cultural and historical context to encourage deeper appreciation of and respect for the complex and difficult challenges they faced as American Indian people of the twentieth century.
Features of the website include:
Introduction and Six Chapters
- Introduction: Code Talkers
- Languages: Living the Culture
- Boarding Schools: Struggling with Cultural Repression
- Code Talking: Intelligence and Bravery
- Coming Home: Strength through Culture
- Survival: Hard Times and Racism
- Recognition: Medals and Praise
Included in each chapter are the following:
- Mini-stories. Several within each chapter.
- Reflection and Discussion Questions. For class discussions, study groups, or as journal assignments.
- Code activities. Several activities designed to allow students to decipher samples of Navajo code and to construct their own messages using the code dictionary.
- Workbook. Included at the end of the Languages, Talking in Codes, Coming Home, and Recognition chapters. We recommend that students view the entire website once, and then go back to do the workbook activities. Completion of the activities will require several sessions on the website.
Captioned photographs, maps, and documents from the website, plus many other primary resources to study.
Both Flash and HTML (Text) versions of Native Words, Native Warriors are provided. The Flash version will work best for viewers with high-speed Internet connections. The HTML version is provided for those with slower modems and Internet connections. It has all of the text contained in the Flash version, but not all of the images and interactive features.
The time needed will depend on the level of use. At least two class periods will be needed to explore the site, but this can be expanded greatly when all activities are completed.
Students will be able to:
- Articulate at least three ways in which language is vital to American Indian cultures.
- Explore the effects of boarding schools on American Indian languages and cultures.
- Demonstrate their knowledge of American Indian World War II code construction by translating and constructing messages.
- Compare ways in which Native American communities traditionally care for and recognize their veterans with those of the larger American culture.
- Summarize the post-war difficulties and achievements of American Indian Code Talkers.
- Compare the story elements to their own personal, family, and community experiences (languages, schooling, war/military).
National Curriculum Standards for Social Studies—National Council for the Social Studies
- Thematic Strand I: Culture. Performance expectations “a” and “c”
- Thematic Strand II: Time, Continuity, and Change. Performance expectation “f”
- Thematic Strand III: People, Places, and Environments. Performance expectation “b”
- Thematic Strand V: Individuals, Groups, and Institutions. Performance expectation “b”
National Standards for History—National Center for History in the Schools
Standards in History for Grades 5–12
- Era 8. The Great Depression and World War II, Standard 3
- Era 9. Postwar United States, Standards 3 and 4
Standards in Historical Thinking
- Chronological thinking
- Historical comprehension
- Historical analysis and interpretation
- Historical research capabilities
- Have some fun and play with the website! There is a lot to explore—historic photographs, documents, maps, audio clips of spoken word and Native American music, and text. The website includes a number of interactive features to encourage student interest and involvement. Because of its complexity, it is important to become familiar with the entire website content and navigation.
- Briefly introduce students to the story of the American Indian Code Talkers.
- Print at least one copy of the Navajo Dictionary (http://www.history.navy.mil/research/library/online-reading-room/title-list-alphabetically/n/navajo-code-talker-dictionary.html) for general reference and for students to use in the interactive Workbook activity for the Code Talking chapter.
Using the website with students
- Study the website one chapter at a time.
- View and listen to all of the mini-stories and read the text on the right-hand side of the screen.
- Study the images on-screen and check the gallery for additional images for each chapter.
- Complete all activities in order within each chapter.
- Reflection and Discussion at the end of each chapter.
- Proceed to the next major section and repeat the sequence.
Complete the interactive Workbook activities for the Languages, Talking in Codes, Coming Home, and Recognition chapters.
To complete Workbook activities, students should:
- Read the instructions and background text on the right hand side of the screen.
- Complete any research or review tasks that are specified. For some of the activities, students will need to leave the website for research and to return at a later time with additional information.
- Select images as specified in the activity.
- Complete the writing tasks in the space provided. Students can also work on their writing assignments offline, and then electronically cut and paste them to the workbook when finished.
- Print the workbook page when completed. Note: Workbook pages cannot be saved online.
- Make a physical portfolio to which students add their printed Workbook pages and other materials as specified.
- Students using the Text Version (HTML) will be able to do the workbook activities. However, they will need to complete their written assignments on paper and compile their finished materials in a standard workbook or binder.
- Lead a discussion about the Code Talkers’ experiences. Focus on American Indian languages and some of the challenges of the past that made it difficult to keep the languages alive. Ask students to think about why it might be difficult for American Indian communities to keep their languages alive today. In addition, talk about the concept of irony with your students. Lead them through a discussion of the irony involved in the Code Talkers’ story—that is, that the United States government sought to eliminate American Indian languages and cultures and later enlisted their services in a heroic and historic military cause.
- Encourage students to explore other online and printed resources about the Code Talkers. See the Resources section for suggested research materials.
- Have students learn more about American Indian languages. Use the map from the Languages chapter for additional study. Learn more about where the languages were spoken, their status today, and specific efforts among American Indian tribes to preserve their languages.
- Have students research and report on ongoing actions of the United States Congress to acknowledge Code Talkers.
- Have students learn more about some of the important battles in World War II in which the Code Talkers served. In the Pacific: Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Tinian, Saipan, and Iwo Jima. In Europe: Normandy and the D-Day Invasion, St. Lo, Huertgen Forest, and The Battle of the Bulge. In Africa: Kasserine Pass. In Italy: Anzio.