The Navajo Code Talkers are Native American war heroes who played a critical role during WWII. Twenty-nice Navajo were recruited to the Marines to develop an indecipherable code, because their language had no alphabet and written language. This code was used and expanded by hundreds of Code Talkers for over 26 years; around 400 Navajos participated in the code talker program and Native Americans from other tribes participated as well. Ultimately, the Code Talkers saved thousands of American and allies’ lives. As John McCain (@SenJohnMcCain) tweeted this past week, “Our nation owes a debt of gratitude to the Navajo Code Talkers, whose bravery, skill & tenacity helped secure our decisive victory over tyranny & oppression during WWII. Politicizing these genuine American heroes is an insult to their sacrifice.”
Take a moment to honor these heroes by sending thank you notes to:
Navajo Code Talkers Association
PO Box 1266
Window Rock, AZ 86515
Tel: 928-688-5202 / Fax: 928-688-5204
The Navajo Code Talkers Museum and Veterans’ Center
10 Main Street
Tuba City, Arizona 86045
Phone (623) 412-0297
Another way to show your appreciation: Help right the wrong by giving to a noble cause in the president’s name. Visit: Native American Rights Fund. President’s address: 1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC 20500.
To read more about the racist slur Trump made at a ceremony honoring these heroes, read more here.
Then consider this response from Dr. Roni Jo Draper, a BYU Professor of multi-culturalism and also a Native American :
My two cents about President Trump and his racist ways.
1. Clearly, without a doubt, President Trump used a racial slur when addressing Navajo Code Talkers and military veterans. It wasn’t a joke (racial slurs are never jokes, by the way). It was intentional (because he has said it in the past, and he has been told in the past that it is a racial slur, and he continues to use it, it is with intention). It was wrong. The fact that he has not addressed his wrong only adds to the damage he has done. This is a poor example of how to be kind, inclusive, and respectful.
2. If Native Americans tell you that calling someone Pocahontas (when that is not their name) is a racial slur, it is a racial slur. That is how you know. We are not being overly sensitive. We are not being partisan. We are just being clear. If you are not Native American (and see point 4 below if you wonder about this), you don’t get to decide if something is a slur against Native Americans. Native Americans get to decide that. You do get to learn if something is a slur against Native Americans.
3. When people excuse President Trump’s behavior (I’m looking at you Sarah Huckabee Sanders), or deny that his behavior is indeed racist, they are participating in racist behavior as well. When people do not call out racist behavior, they are participating in that behavior. We don’t have to say, “President Trump is a racist.” (Although, he very well may be–I certainly haven’t seen him do or say anything that suggests he isn’t a racist.) We can say, “President Trump used a racial slur that should be struck from his vocabulary. To say it in the presence of Navajo people is particularly cruel and certainly has no place in a ceremony meant to honor WWII veterans of the United States of America.” Has America not robbed the indigenous peoples of enough? Let’s stand up against hate speech–even and especially when it comes from the mouths of our leaders.
4. Elizabeth Warren claiming Native American heritage because her grandparents told her stories is problematic. It is not clear that she used this claim to get ahead (if white folks think people can just check a box and get ahead somehow as a Native American, they really aren’t paying attention to the game). At any rate, she, and other white people who are claiming indigenous heritage based on romantic tales told around Thanksgiving tables, need to do the work of checking their trees and coming clean on their own stories. I can get behind her saying, “my grandparents said it was so and I believed them. They were wrong. I should have checked and been more careful with facts. I’m sorry.” White people who are claiming native heritage, check your trees. This problem is so widespread and common that there are academic articles written on it.
Thanks for reading and letting me get a few things off my chest.
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