22 October 2014

Comic's First Issue Tells of World War I Code-Talkers

The comic book "Tales of the Mighty Code Talkers," recently released by the Indigenous Narratives Collective, Austin, Texas, helps introduce readers to a rich history of Native American soldiers on 20th century battlefields.

The comic is written and illustrated by Arigon Starr. A series and/or collected volume of comics is planned.

The practice of using speakers of Native American languages to encrypt military radio transmissions is well-known and celebrated in some circles. It even served as the inspiration of a 2002 feature film "Windtalkers." (Admittedly, that film had shortcomings, including the fact that it focused on a non-Native American protagonist.)

However, few realize that the practice originated not with the use of Navajo speakers in the Pacific Theater during World War II, but with Cherokee and Choctaw speakers in World War I France.

During that war, Cherokee men assigned to the U.S. 30th Infantry Division used their language during to pass communication between headquarters and front lines.

Some 14 Choctaw men similarly served in the U.S. 36th Infantry Division. The first issue of "Tales of the Mighty Code Talkers" comic tells the story of Cpl. Solomon Louis and other Choctaw soldiers. According to the Choctaw Code Talkers Association website:
Code Talker Solomon Bond Louis, 142nd Infantry, was from Bryan County. He is credited with being the leader of the original Choctaw Code Talkers during the war. Seeing his buddies at Armstrong Academy enlist in the armed services, Louis who was underage, pretended to be 18 so that he too could join. He received his basic training at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma. 
He was sent to Ft. Worth, Texas where he joined an all-Indian Company which was part of the 36th Division. In France, Louis was stationed at Division Headquarters with James Edwards on the other end of the telephone line out in the field at the front line. Edwards informed Louis in Choctaw what the Germans were up to.
In World War II, 27 members of Iowa's Meskwaki (Sac and Fox) people used their language skills in the North African Theater. They were assigned to Iowa's 168th Infantry Regiment, 34th Infantry "Red Bull" Division.

A Facebook page for the Indigenous Narratives Collective is here. The $5 "Tales of the Mighty Code Talkers" No. 1 issue may be ordered here. Use the code GAKAC2014 to receive 10 percent off, and a second issue will be donated to a Native American student of history.

A $15 limited-edition poster, illustrated by Kristina Bad Hand, features the cover design for the first trade paperback collection of the comic series. It is available for sale online here.

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