On November 20, 2013, Speaker of the House John Boehner as well as a plethora of other high profile Washington, D.C. dignitaries came together at the U.S Capitol to honor 25 Native American tribal nations with Congressional Gold Medals. The ceremony honored the vast array of Native American code talkers who served in World War I and II. The mint states that six additional tribes are eligible for Congressional Gold Medals for their code talkers and will receive them at a future date, they are: the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe, Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes, Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Tribe, Pueblo of Laguna, Rosebud Tribe and the Mohawk Tribe.
Each tribal medal was designed to honor their perspective tribes. In a gesture of honor, we selected 8 tribes’ medals at random and will illustrate and describe them here. All of the medals can been seen on the U.S. Mint website.
The Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma
On the (obverse) front of the medal, a code talker is seen talking on a field phone while transcribing the Cherokee language. The words Cherokee Language and Code Talkers is written in English and Cherokee. On the reverse side of the coin is the Cherokee Nation Seal.
The Comanche Nation of Oklahoma
On the obverse of the Comanche medal is a design of the Comanche Code and Spirit Talker Monument, which is located at the Comanche Nation Headquarters. The words Comanche Code Talkers and Numunu, the Comanche word for “people,” is inscribed. The reverse contains the Comanche Nation logo, the 90th and 4th Infantry insignia and Puhihwitekwa Ekasahpana, which translates “soldiers talking on phones made of metal.”
The Hopi Tribe of Arizona
The obverse of the medal shows Hopi code talkers on a field phone while using binoculars to search for the enemy. A B-24 Liberator represents the Hopi code talkers’ service in the 90th and 380th Bombardment Groups. The reverse shows a Hopi flag and the inscriptions World War II, Act of Congress 2008, A Code Never Broken, Kept America Free and Hopilavayi, which means “Hopi language.”
The Menominee Nation of Wisconsin
This medal depicts a code talker in action while three P-51 Mustangs fly above. The inscription on the front is Menominee Code Talkers and Omaeqnomenew Kemoc Keketotatowak, which translates to “Menominee secretly talk to each other.” The reverse of the medal is a Thunderbird, the five clans and the inscriptions World War II and Act of Congress 2008.
Oglala Sioux Tribe of South Dakota
The obverse shows a code talker on a field phone with an Eagle emblazoned with stripes of the American flag. Inscriptions state Oglala and Lakota Akicita Iyeska Wicasa, which translates to “Indian soldier translator man.” On the reverse is a variation of the Oglala Sioux Tribe flag which represent the nine districts of Oglala—Porcupine, Wakpamni, Medicine Root, Pass Creek, Eagle Nest, White Clay, PR Village, La Creek and Wounded Knee. Other inscriptions are World War II, Act of Congress 2008 and Akicita, Okolakiciye, which translates to “warrior’s society.”
Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma
On the obverse of the medal kneels a code talker with a phone in one hand and a helmet in the other. The inscription reads Pawnee Nation Code Talkers. On the reverse of the medal is a Pawnee Nation seal which includes a wolf, tomahawk, peace pipe, morning star, sage, cedar and a banner inscribed with Chaticks-Si-Chaticks, which translates to “men-of-men.” Other inscriptions on the reverse are World War I, World War II and Act of Congress 2008.
Tlingit Tribe of Alaska
On the obverse of the medal, a kneeling soldier holding his rifle talks on his field radio and three semicircles signify the transmission of radio signals. The transcription reads Tlinglit Warriors Code Talkers. On the reverse, a killer whale headdress design represents the Tlingit code talkers of World War II who were affiliated with the Killer Whale Clan. Inscriptions are World War II, Killer Whale Clan and Act of Congress 2008.
Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe
On the obverse of this medal a World War I soldier sits in a trench receiving a message on his field telephone while another two soldiers are in a forest below. The inscriptions on the medal are Wakpa Waste Oyanke Akicita Zuya Iyasica, the Cheyenne River Sioux language for “good river soldiers fight the enemy,” and Lakota Code Talkers.
The reverse features elements from the Cheyenne River Sioux flag which are four tipis with buffalos on them. Inscriptions are World War I, World War II and Act of Congress.