Hear the stories of the last Navajo Code Talkers

The United States military first started using code talkers during The First World War. They were aboriginal soldiers fluent in the languages of the Cherokee and Choctaw peoples who were tasked with speaking in their native tongues to secure voice and communications from an all-too-likely eavesdropping enemy. It wasn’t until they were deployed with the Marine Corps during World War II, however, that code talkers became the legends they’re remembered as, today.

From Wikipedia: There were two code types used during World War II. Type one codes were formally developed based on the languages of the Comanches, Hopies, Meskwakis, and Navajos. They used words from their languages for each letter of the English alphabet. Messages could be encoded and decoded by using a simple substitution cipher where the ciphertext was the native language word. Type two code was informal and directly translated from English into the native language. If there was no word in the native language to describe a military word, code talkers used descriptive words. For example, the Navajo did not have a word for submarine so they translated it to iron fish.

Today, there are only five code Navajo code talker veterans of the Marine Corps left in the world: Joe Vandever Sr., Peter MacDonald, Samuel F. Sandoval, John Kinsel Sr., and Thomas H. Begay. Arizona Central’s* Shondiin Silversmith has done the Navajo Nation and all future generations a great service by collecting the stories of these five brave men in text and video.

Taking a browse of Silversmith’s feature is well worth your time: take a few moments to remember a handful of brave men who sacrificed their youth and, in far too many cases, their lives, to fend off fascism. Read the rest

Urban Outfitters' 'Navajo Hipster Panty' lawsuit still ongoing

A 2012 lawsuit from the Navajo Nation, against Urban Outfitters, drags on. Uncomfortable with the retailer's now cancelled "Navajo" line of clothing, the suit was brought to defend The Navajo Nation's Federal trademark. Urban Outfitters, naturally, feels the term "Navajo" is generic and descriptive of a style, they're asking the trademark registration be removed.

Who doesn't want a hipster panty named after them?


Millions of dollars are potentially at stake in the suit. The tribe is seeking revenue from products using the “Navajo” name starting from 2008. Urban Outfitters, however, counters that the term “Navajo” is a generic term for a style or design, and that the tribe took too long to file suit. The company wants a judge to not only determine that it hasn’t infringed upon the tribe’s rights but to also cancel the tribe’s federal trademark registrations.

Diné [Navajo] tribal member Casey John disagrees with the argument that “Navajo” is a generic term. “Using Navajo to describe something is further colonizing the word. Using it to refer to a type of pattern … it’s not really a pattern,” she says. “To say it’s just a design, they don’t need permission from a tribe that federally, legally calls themselves Navajo … it’s just ridiculous. It’s legally the name we use in any kind of actions with other nations, the government. It [the name] should not be taken lightly at all.”

The retail company is no stranger to racially charged controversies. In 2005, it faced backlash for selling a T-shirt with the phrase “New Mexico: Cleaner than regular Mexico,” and again in 2010 for describing a T-shirt color as “Obama/Black.”

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Navajo Nation bears burden of recent Animas mining spill disaster in Colorado

The Environmental Protection Agency was investigating an old mine near Silverton, Colo., earlier this month, when it accidentally released 3 million gallons of toxic waste water into the Animas River.