Guest Column | Groundbreaking, parade, gourd dance planned for Navajo Code Talkers Day
By Geri Hongeva
National Navajo Code Talkers Day in Tse Bonito, New Mexico, comes together with a ground-breaking ceremony to bless the future site of the Navajo Code Talkers Museum on Sunday, Aug. 14.
A public event is planned to honor and remember the 400 Navajo Code Talkers who served in World War II and helped win the war in the Pacific, using the Navajo language creating the unbreakable code for radio communication.
This year marks the 80th anniversary of Navajo Code Talkers first being created by the U.S. Marine Corps at Camp Pendleton.
The young Navajo Marines were recruited specifically for their proficiency in the unwritten language and trained to learn the code, then they continued to Fleet Marine Force Training Center at Camp Elliott in San Diego to advance in radio operations and messaging.
Today, we have three remaining Navajo Code Talkers: Thomas H. Begay, John Kinsel Sr. and Peter MacDonald Sr.
The nation mourned Samuel F. Sandoval on July 29, 2022. He was the vice president of the nonprofit Navajo Code Talkers Museum Inc. His vision was to see the museum and he strived to make it possible.
NCTM board members, volunteers and sponsors have planned to make Aug. 14 very special. The current schedule includes guest speakers Lt. Gen. David Bellon, U.S. Marine Corps, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, former Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis, Congressman Tom O’Halleran and New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.
President Jonathan Nez and Speaker Seth Damon will welcome the community and all visitors.
An honor run by Navajo YES will be coordinated. The course is a two-mile fun run starting at 7 a.m. A parade will begin at 8:15 a.m. Staging is at 7 a.m.
There will be a designated space for all descendants of the Navajo Code Talkers. Families who would like to set up a table or display “Sharing our Legacy,” reserve your space by email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Opening ceremonies include a welcome address, posting of colors and pledge of allegiance beginning at 9:30 a.m.
At 11:20 a.m., keynote speaker is Bellon, who serves as commander of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve and Marine Corps Forces South.
All times are Daylight Savings Time.
The ground-breaking ceremony with shovels and key individuals to commemorate the future site of the Navajo Code Talkers Museum will conclude the agenda.
A gourd dance will be held thereafter which will end at 6 p.m.
For visitors who have not attended a gourd dance, it is a traditional dance to honor warriors, veterans or men of wisdom.
At the opening song, usually everyone sits until it is complete, then they will follow the main gourd dancers.
The men dance inside the arena as the women gather behind the dancers and gently move to the beat of drum while wearing a shawl.
The men will have a sash, a gourd and a fan.
Visitors remain under the canopy, at the outer ring, until they are invited to dance by a tribal member offering a gourd or a fan that they can use during the dance.
“It’s a warriors dance, all veterans are invited to dance,” said Davis Filfred, coordinator for the gourd dance.
As the gourd dance concludes, usually there is a traveling song with no shaking of the gourd, just vocals.
The public is welcome to be a part of this special day, bring your own chairs and umbrellas.
The Marine Helicopter Transport Squadron 764, a part of the USMC Reserves (not active duty), from California Naval Air Station will be flying a MV-22 Osprey into Window Rock airport on Sunday.
The public is welcome at the hanger to see the aircraft up close and take photos after 12:30 p.m. shortly after it lands.
Through out the Unites States, many Americans will remember the Navajo Code Talkers and mission that they accomplished by speaking Navajo in World War II.
On Navajo Nation, we celebrate and honor what our warriors have done to keep our homeland free, to protect our relatives and Dine Bikeyah where the Navajo language is still spoken fluently today.
For information about National Navajo Code Talkers Day on Aug. 14 at Tse Bonito, near the Navajo Nation’s capital of Window Rock, visit www.NationalNavajoCodeTalkersDay.com or email Navajocodetalkersmuseum@gmail.com