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Honoring Native American Heroes

Sen. Thomas A. Daschle

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Mr. President, Americans are united today in concern for the safety and well-being of our men and women in uniform--especially those who are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, risking their lives to advance human freedom.

This morning, I would like to speak about the extraordinary service of a group of soldiers from two earlier wars.

We know these men today as ``the code talkers.''

They were Native American soldiers who used the languages of their tribes to send strategic military communications during World Wars I and II. Their impenetrable codes saved the lives of countless American troops in Europe and throughout the Pacific.

The Navajo code talkers are the best-known of these men. Three years ago, they were honored, rightly, with congressional medals.

But the Navajo were not the only code talkers. Soldiers from at least 15 other Indian Nations--including the Cherokee, Choctaw, Comanche, Pawnee, Seminole, Osage, Kiowa, Hopi and other nations--also served as code talkers. And 11 code talkers came from the Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota nations, known to many as the Great Sioux Nation.

Of those 11, nine--John Bear King of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe; Simon Broken Leg and Iver Crow Eagle, Sr., of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe; Eddie Eagle Boy and Phillip LaBlanc, of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe; Bap-TEEST Pumpkinseed of the Oglala Sioux Tribe; Edmund St. John of the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe; and Walter C. John of the Santee Sioux Tribe of Nebraska--have all passed on.

Charlie Whitepipe is one of the two surviving Lakota code talkers.

In 1941, he enlisted in the United States Army. He was already in training in California when Pearl Harbor was attacked. The following day, he shipped out to Hawaii.

From Hawaii, his unit was sent to the Pacific island nation of New Guinea.

It was in New Guinea that another soldier, from Sioux Falls, told his commanding officer that Charlie Whitepipe would make a good forward observer because--in his words--``the Sioux are stealthy, sneaky, people.''

The characterization angered Whitepipe, but it apparently impressed his commanding officer.

Charlie Whitepipe spent the next 2 years in New Guinea as a forward observer and radio man, moving ahead of his unit and communicating in Lakota with a ship-based partner to direct artillery fire at enemy troops.

In 1944, he was shipped home, suffering from malaria and jungle rot, the result of months spent in water-filled foxholes.

After an honorable discharge, he returned to Rosebud, married, and raised six children with his wife.

He spent 30 years working as a lineman with the rural electric association, helping to bring electricity to the Rosebud Reservation and other parts of rural South Dakota. In his son's words, ``He got up and went to work 6 days a week and on the 7th day, he got up and took his family to church.''

Charlie Whitepipe turned 86 this month. He suffers today from a profound hearing loss caused in part by artillery explosions.

His family remains the center of his life.

Clarence Wolf Guts is the other surviving Lakota code talker.

He enlisted in the Army 7 months after Pearl Harbor with his friend and cousin, Iver Crow Eagle, Sr.

During Ranger training in Alabama, an officer discovered that the cousins could both speak, read, and write Lakota. As Mr. Wolf Guts recalls it, that officer ``thought he'd hit the jackpot.''

Clarence Wolf Guts was assigned to travel with a general in the Pacific, and Iver Crow Eagle was assigned as a radio operator for a colonel.

For the next 3 years, the cousins jumped from one Pacific island to the next, pushing the Japanese back.

They also helped develop a phonetic alphabet based on Lakota that was later used to develop a Lakota code.

One day, as bullets and shrapnel exploded around him, Clarence Wolf Guts whispered a prayer in Lakota:

Bring me home, God, and I will praise your name always.

His prayer was answered.

Clarence Wolf Guts returned safely to Pine Ridge in 1946, married and--like Charlie Whitepipe--raised six children.

Today, at 80, he marches with veterans groups whenever he can.

The Yankton Sioux were among the first Native American soldiers to use a native language to confound enemy troops, in World War I. Through two world wars, no native language or code based on an indigenous American language was ever broken.

What makes the code talkers story even more extraordinary to some is the fact that these men chose to fight for the United States at all.

As young boys, Charlie Whitepipe and Clarence Wolf Guts spoke only Lakota. Like most of the code talkers, however, they were forced to attend schools in which they were forbidden to speak their native language.

Students who broke the English-only rules were punished harshly; many were beaten, some even to death.

It was part of a sad, brutal chapter in our Nation's history in which the United States Government and other institutions tried to strip Indian children of their tribal identities.

Despite that history, despite the failure of the United States Government to honor its treaty obligations and other commitments to tribes, Native Americans have long had a higher rate of military service than any other group in America.

Another young Lakota soldier, Sheldon Hawk Eagle, was laid to rest in the National Cemetery in the Black Hills just before Thanksgiving last year. Like so many Lakota people before him, he died serving this Nation.

This past Fourth of July, I was honored to march with other veterans at a powwow at the Sisseton-Wahpeton Sioux Reservation in South Dakota. Among the veterans who marched with us that day were two members of the tribe who were home on leave from Iraq.

That evening, at our State's annual Fourth of July fireworks celebration at Mount Rushmore, South Dakotans paid special tribute to the Lakota code talkers.

There have been other tributes as well. But there is at least one more honor the Lakota code talkers are due.

I strongly believe that Congress should pass the Code Talkers Recognition Act this year to award our Nation's highest honor, the Congressional Medal, to the Lakota code talkers and all Native American code talkers who served in both world wars.

This is a bipartisan bill. Senator Inhofe introduced it, and I am proud to be a cosponsor, along with my fellow South Dakotan, Tim Johnson, and others. A similar bill passed the House in 2002 but was blocked in the Senate by members of the other party.

Historians can debate which code talkers communicated in actual codes and which communicated essential military information using only their native languages. What is beyond debate, however, is the courage of veterans such as Charlie Whitepipe and Clarence Wolf Guts and the extraordinary value of their wartime service to our Nation. Let us work together to pass the Code Talkers Recognition Act this year before we lose any more of these heroes.

Let us also agree that we will honor the service of the code talkers by funding veterans health programs adequately, and ensuring that veterans in tribal communities have reasonable access to VA facilities. Let us also honor our Government's treaty obligations to fund Indian health care, so that tribal veterans and their families are not denied essential care.

Finally, we should honor the code talkers by working to preserve the rich, ancient languages they used to preserve our freedom.

Many of those languages are on the verge of extinction. Of the 300 indigenous languages once spoken in America, only 150 are still spoken today. Of those, only 20 are still spoken by several generations.

Experts warn that without immediate, dramatic action by Native Americans, tribal governments and schools, and the Federal Government to encourage their preservation and perpetuation, Lakota and all of the native languages of America will die by the year 2050.

Language is the most effective means we have to transmit our values, our beliefs, and our collective memories from one generation to the next. For that reason, Native Americans and tribal communities particularly benefit from preserving the languages of their ancestors. But they are not alone. Imagine how World War II might have turned out had we not had the code talkers.

In 1990, with Senator Inouye's leadership, Congress established the Native American Languages Act to ``preserve, protect and promote the rights and freedom of Native Americans to use, practice and develop Native American languages.''

Last year, Senator Inouye introduced amendments to that law to support the creation within tribal communities of immersion schools and language survival ``nests,'' to teach these languages to the next generation.

Let's pass those amendments this year. There is no time to waste.

Let's also work together to adequately fund Indian schools and to include in all Federal education policies the flexibility tribal educators need to include native languages, history and culture in their curriculums.

Indian parents, and tribal leaders and educators, in South Dakota care deeply about this. And President Bush specifically called for such flexibility in the Executive order on Indian education he signed less than three months ago.

Soldiers go to war to give their children the chance to live better lives. What better way can we honor the code talkers than to support schools in which their descendants can learn the native languages that helped to save our Nation?

The result of such efforts will be a healthier, happier Indian population. And who knows what we will all learn in the process?

Mr. President, these remarks have been translated into Lakota by Elizabeth Little Elk, a member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. I ask unanimous consent that the Lakota translation of my words be printed in the Congressional Record.

There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the Record, as follows:

Tunkasila Mila Hanska Oyate ki lel un gluwitapi. Na taku le ecunkupi ke he, wiyan nahan wicasa le un okicize el un pelo. Iyotan winyan na wicasa kowakatan unpi hel Iraq nahan Afghanistan. Takuwe heciya unpi ki hena oyate ki nawicakinjin pelo. Le hihani ki taku wan iwowablakin kte ehani wicasa eya makasitomani okicize el apa pelo. Lena akicita ki tokeske wacinwicayau ki he ta wowiye ki un woglakapi, ho nahan he un wicakpe ota nin pelo. Sina Gleska Oyate etan Wicasa eya makocesitomani slolwicaya pelo. Ehani waniyetu yamni he han Tunkasila wicasa ki lena wicayuonihan pelo. Sina Gleska Oyate ki isnalapi sni, nainjeyan lena oyate ki pi Cherokee, Choctaw, Comanche, Pawnee, Seminole, Osage, Kiowa, nahan Hopi akicita he tanpi. Ho, nahan wicasa ake wanji Oceti Sakowin u pelo. Le ake wanji ki he John Bear King of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe; Simon Broken Leg and Iver Crow Eagle, Sr. of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe; Eddie Eagle Boy and Phillip LaBlanc of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe; Baptiste Pumpkinseed of the Oglala Sioux Tribe; Edmund St. John of the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe; and Walter C. John of the Santee Sioux Tribe of Nebraska--numlala ni unpi. Charlie Whitepipe hecena niun. 1941 he han akicita el ic'icu, hetan California ekta iyeyapi nahan heceya un he han Pearl Harbor tiektiyapi. He ihaniyuhehan Hawaii ekta iyeyapi, ho nahan hetan New Guinea ekta iyeya pelo. New Guinea ekta un hehan wicasa wan Inyan oblecahan etanhan itancan ki okiyaki na Charlie Whitepipe atunwan ki waste kte cin Lakota ki lila wicasapi sni hanan waecun unspepi yelo. Le wicasa ki waeyo hehan Charlie Whitepipe iyohpi sni cin Lakota ki hececapi sni, eyas itacan ki hecetula ca Charlie Whitepipe waniyutu num atuwan wicasa heca. Ho nahan, Lakota woiye un wata wan el Lakota wan kici woglake. 1944 hehan lila kuje ca glicuyapi. Charlie Whitepipe gli hahan taicutun na wakanyeja sakpe icahwice. Ho hetan waniyetu wikcemna yamni Rural Electric Association hel wowasecun. Ta cinca wan atkuku ki anpetu ki oyohi wasecun, ho nahan anpetu wakan canasna tiwahe tawa ki iyuha wakekiye awinca iye. Wana Charlie Whitepipe waniyetu saglokan ake sakpe. Lehanl wicasa ki le nunhcan natakuni nahun sni icin okicize ekta un, hehanl wanapobiyab ki nuge ki yusicapi. Wicasa ki let tiwahe tawa ki tehkila. Clarence Wolf Guts injiyan nahahcini un, nahan injiya Lakota woiye nahan woglake un okicize ekta wacinuanpi. Ta kola ku kici, Iver Crow Eagle, Sr., akicita el ici'cupi. Alabama ekta eye wicayapi. Heciya itacan ki wanji ablezina Iver nahan Clarence Lakota woglaka nahan wayawa okihipi. Mr. Wolf Guts oglakina akicita itacan ki lila oiyokipi. Clarence Wolf Guts akicita ota itacan ki omani. Ho nahan, Iver Crow Eagle, Sr., injeyan akicita itaca wan ki cin wasecun. Lena Wicasa ki tahansi kiciyapi. Waniyetu yamni Iver nahan Clarence wita ecehcel manipi. Lakota wowiye un wowapi wan kagapi. Le wowapi ki akicita ki unpi. Anpetu wanji Clarence wacekiya, ``Wakan Tanka tanyan waki hantas ohihanke wanjini cecicin kte.'' Clarence wacekiye ki he osi'icu. Clarence Wolf Guts Pine Ridge ekta Tanya gli. Taicutun nainjiyan wakanyeja sakpe icahwice. Lehanl waniyetu wikcemna saglokan. Akicita ki mani cansna el opa. Tuwa tokiya Lakol woiye un okicize el un ki he Ihuntuwan Dakota Oyate ki epi. World War I nahan World War II Lakota woiye okicize el un ki ogahniga sni ca, lial taku ota ecun na eyab okihipi. Lena wicasa ki toheki lila wohanke ki he lena wicasa ki okicize el unpi, nahan iyeca hena hecunpi. Charlie Whitepipe nahan Clarence Wolf Guts wakanyeja pu hehan Lakota ecela unspepi. Ho eyas, wana wayapi hehan Lakota woglake okihip sni. Wasicu ecela woglaka okihipi. Lakota woglaka hantas awicapapi naha tehiya wicakowap. Nahan hunh t'api. Le iwanglakap cansna lila oyohsice na waste sni. Hehan Mila Hanska ki Oceti Sakowin Oyate tehkiya wicakowapi. Lakol wicoh'an ki unkip wacinpi. Lecel oyate ki owicakowap eyas hecana wicasa na winyan ici'cu. Mila Hanska Oyate okicize wanji el iyab canasna Lakota winyan na wicasa akita el eci'cupi. Akicita wan Sheldon Hawk Eagle eciyapi ca He Sapa National Cemetary el eyonpap le waniyetu hehan le koskalaka ki okicize el lecala t'e. Le 4th of July hehan akicita ki manipi ca ob wamani. Le Sisseton-Wahpeton Reservation el mawani. Hehan wicasa num Iraq ekta okicize hetan glipi. He hanhepi hehan He Sapa ekta akicita wica uonihanpi ca el waun. Akicita ki wica yuonihanpi ota, ho eyas, Lakota woiye akicita ki hena isnala wicayuonihan wacin. Taku wan lila iblukcan ki he le akicita eya woiye ki hena Tunkasila wicayuonihan ki waste kte. World War I na World War II makasitomani akicita eya iwaglake ki lena woyuonihan wakantuye ic'u wacin. Wowapi wan lel awahi, le wowapi tuweki iyuha ikipi kte. Senator Inhofe kici, nahan Tim Johnson awahi. Waniyetu nupa hehan wowapi lecel unkohipi, eyas hunk sam kahinhpeya najinpi. Akicita eya Charlie Whitepipe na Clarence Wolf Guts oyate ecetkiya waencunpi le un wayuonihan wakantuya wicun'kup waste ke yelo. Lena wicasa ki ecani el un kte sni, ca le waniyetu ki unkigluwitap na wowapi ki le unyuwastepi ki waste ktelo. Lankun taku ecun'kun kte ki he akicita ki lena taky ewojawab ki hena wicunkub ki waste kte. Akicita okuju tipi hena muza ska iyena yuhap ki waste kte. Lena oyate ki Wolakota wowapi waste kte. Lena oyate ki Wolakota wowapi wanji kici unkagapi. Taku wowapi ki le na eya ki unkinyejan ecunkun waste ke. Na lena winyan na wicasa ki wicasyuonihanpi ki ta woiye ki un inipi. Makasitomni lakol woiye ki lila oh'kankoya takuni sni ehani kohta yamni woiye waglakapi le hanl wikcemna num woiye waglapi. Tuwiki yuha takun ecunp sni tantas lakol wichoh'an nahan lakol woye ki wanic'in kte. Lakol wicoh'an na lakol woiye ki un wakanyeja ki tan icagapi. Lena ungluzapi ki waste kte. Lecel oyate ki niupi kte. 1990 hehan Senator Inouye wowapi wan lel ahi, ho ca iyuha walakapi, na luwastepi. He wowapi ki Lakota Oyate ki makasitomni lakol wicoh'an na woiye yuwas'ake. Senator Inouye nakun wowapi lel ahi he owayawa tipi ki lena muza ska wicaku hecel lakol wicoh'an ki wakanyeja ki unspe okte. Ateyapi Bush wowapi wan caje ki owa. Wowapi wan woiye ke lena tanyan wacin kte, ca wowapi yamni el caje ke owa. Le wowayepi ki waste. Akicita ki okicize el yapi hecel ta wakanyeja ki tanyan unpi kte, na tiwahe oyunihanpi uncinpi. Le wowapi ki unyunwastepi wacin. Le ecunkunpi ki hanta taku unkablezap seca?

Sen. Thomas A. Daschle

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I yield the floor.

The Senator from Colorado.

Sen. Wayne A. Allard

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I ask the Chair to notify me after 15 minutes of my time has expired.

The Chair will so notify the Senator.