SHI, SEALASKA TO SPONSOR LECTURES ON TLINGIT, NAVAJO CODE TALKERS
Lecture part of SHI’s Native American Heritage Month celebration
November 18, 2016
Southeast Alaska Native Veterans Commander Ozzie Sheakley on Tuesday will speak about Tlingit code talkers Mark Jacobs, Jr., Harvey Jacobs, George Lewis, Jr., Robert “Jeff” David, Sr., and Richard Bean, Sr., and their Congressional Gold and Silver Medals.
Sheakley will be followed by Judith Avila, author of the best-selling book Code Talker: The First and Only Memoir by One of the Original Navajo Code Talkers of WWII. Avila will provide the context of the work of code talkers through her lecture Code Talker—Looking through the Eyes of Navajo Marine Chester Nez (1921–2014). She will be accompanied by Chester Nez’s grandson, Latham Nez.
Native code talkers played a pivotal role in World War II, said SHI President Rosita Worl.
“During the war, the Japanese had cracked every code the United States used, but when the Marines turned to Navajo, Tlingit and other Native American recruits to develop and implement a secret military language, they created the only unbroken codes in modern warfare—and helped assure victory for the United States over Japan in the South Pacific,” Worl said.
Navajo code talkers have long been recognized for the crucial part they played in World War II. But until very recently, no one knew that Tlingit code talkers also used the Tlingit language as a code that the enemy was never able to crack. Even the families of the Tlingit code talkers did not know of their secret service.
In November 2013, Congress awarded silver medals posthumously to Tlingit code talkers Robert Jeff David, Sr., Richard Bean, Sr., George Lewis, Jr., and brothers Harvey Jacobs and Mark Jacobs, Jr. Southeast Alaska Native Veterans Commander and guest lecturer Ozzie Sheakley, who attended the Congressional ceremony in Washington, D.C. along with representatives from thirty-two other tribes whose members were also code talkers, received the Congressional Gold Medal on behalf of the Tlingit tribe.
Former House Speaker John Boehner reported at the ceremony that “during forty-eight hours on Iwo Jima, they say 800 Native language battle communications were received and translated. It took seconds, at a time when decoding by machines could take half an hour. The men undoubtedly saved lives.”
SHI and Sealaska are sponsoring the November series in honor of traditional Native warriors and veterans. The free lectures are scheduled at noon on Tuesday, Nov. 22, at the Walter Soboleff Building in Juneau. Everyone is welcome.
Tuesday, Nov. 22
Honoring Our Nation's Code Talkers
Southeast Alaska Native Veterans Commander
Best-selling author of Code Talker: The First and Only Memoir by One of the Original Navajo Code Talkers of WWII
Ozzie Sheakley will speak about Tlingit code talkers Mark Jacobs, Harvey Jacobs, George Lewis, Jeff David and Richard Bean and their Congressional Gold and Silver Medals. Sheakley will be followed by Judith Avila, who will provide the context of the work of code talkers through her lecture Code Talker—Looking through the Eyes of Navajo Marine Chester Nez (1921–2014). She will be accompanied by Chester Nez’s grandson, Latham Nez.
- Tuesday, Nov. 29
The Way of the Warrior
Kai Monture of the K’iniex Kwáan in Yakutat will provide a lecture on his training he received from his grandfather, George Ramos, who is an expert on Tlingit warriors.
Thursday, Dec. 1
“Terrifying Visages”: Armored Warriors of the Northern Northwest Coast
Curator of Collections
Alaska State Museum
This talk will feature images of armor mostly housed in museums and cultural centers around the world. Henrikson has located nearly one hundred war helmets in museums and private collections, with new ones showing up every year or two. The helmets—elaborately carved with fearsome sculptures of clan crests, ancestors, and spirits—are part of a system of armor that protected the face, body and appendages. The armor was designed to protect warriors from traditional weapons: arrows, daggers, spears and clubs, many of which are elaborately decorated. By the 19th century, the armor became obsolete as high-powered firearms became commonplace, and war helmets were kept as sacred clan objects and worn and displayed at ceremonies.
TLINGIT CODE TALKERS
- Richard Bean, Sr.
T’akdeintaan Sockeye House, Hoonah
Richard Bean, Sr., was a well-known commercial fisherman from Hoonah. He was a purse seiner, crabber, troller, and halibut fisherman. In addition, Richard was an elder in the Hoonah Presbyterian Church, a lifetime member of the Alaska Native Brotherhood, and a member of Sealaska, Huna Totem Corporation, Juneau Veterans of Foreign Wars, and the Sitka American Legion. He served in the South Pacific theater during World War II.
- Robert “Jeff” David, Sr.
Kaasgú Suk kees
Kaagwaantaan, Bear House, Haines
Takdeintaan yádi, Chookaneidí dachxán
Robert “Jeff” David, Sr., was a well-known basketball legend from Haines. He was a member of the Gold Medal Hall of Fame, was a top fisherman, and was one of Sealaska’s first board members. Jeff was described as charismatic, confident, and outspoken. However, his son, Jeff David, Jr., says his father never talked much about his service in World War II, other than that he served in the Philippines for part of it and was in special services.
- Harvey Jacobs
Tleeyaa Kéet, Gaandawéi
Dakl’aweidí, Killerwhale House, Angoon
Deisheetaan yádi, Teikweidí dachxán
Harvey Jacobs was a fisherman from Sitka. When he and his brother, Mark Jacobs Jr., joined the Navy shortly after Pearl Harbor, they skipped basic training and were put to work immediately on picket boats in Southeast Alaska and the Aleutians, and then in the South Pacific. Harvey was a Machinist Mate 1st Class in the U.S. Navy and was stationed on the USS Morrison (DD 560), but he was taken off the ship prior to it subsequently becoming lost off Okinawa.
- Mark Jacobs, Jr.
Saa.aat’, Keet wú, Oodéishk’áduneek, Gusht’eihéen, Woochxkáduhaa
Dakl’aweidí, Killerwhale House, Angoon
Deisheetaan yádi, Teikweidí dachxán
Mark Jacobs, Jr., was a well-known fisherman, leader, and historian from Sitka. He had vast knowledge of Tlingit culture and held positions in many regional and national groups, such as the Alaska Native Brotherhood, the Alaska Federation of Natives, the National Congress of American Indians, Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska, and Sealaska. Mark served four years in the U.S. military, nearly all of which were in sea duty and in war zones. He served on the USS New Mexico in the Aleutians and on the USS Newberry and two years in the Amphibious Forces in the South Pacific. When he first joined the Navy with his brother Harvey Jacobs, they skipped basic training to immediately work on picket boats in Southeast Alaska and the Aleutians.
- George Lewis, Jr.
Saa.aat’, Naagei, Xaakaayí
Dakl’aweidí, Killer Whale House, Angoon
Kiks.ádi yádi, Chookaneidí dachxán
George Lewis, Jr., was a boat builder, carpenter, and mill worker from Sitka. He was also active in silver carving, fishing, boxing, and carving totems and Tlingit helmets. In addition, George gave 45 years of service to the Salvation Army, was a lifetime member of the Alaska Native Brotherhood in Klawock and Haines, and was a fluent Tlingit speaker and storyteller. He served in the U.S. military in World War II.
Sealaska Heritage Institute is a private, nonprofit founded in 1980 to promote cultural diversity and cross-cultural understanding through public services and events. SHI also conducts social scientific and public policy research and advocacy that promotes Alaska Native arts, cultures, history and education statewide. The institute is governed by a Board of Trustees and guided by a Council of Traditional Scholars and a Native Artists Committee. Its mission is to perpetuate and enhance Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian cultures of Southeast Alaska.
CONTACT: Rosita Worl, SHI President, 907.463-4844