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Treasury Notes

 Treasury and Mint Join Congress to Honor Native American Code Talkers

By: Dick Peterson, Deputy Director of the U.S. Mint
11/21/2013

In one of the proudest days in the history of the United States Mint, Congressional Gold Medals were presented yesterday to 25 Native American tribes in recognition of the dedication and valor of the Code Talkers and their service to the United States Armed Forces during World War I and World War II. The historic ceremony was held in Emancipation Hall at the U.S. Capitol. Attendees included leaders and members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, and Treasurer of the United States Rosie Rios, among others.

IMG_2027.JPGTreasurer Rosie Rios meets Edmond Harjo of the Seminole Nation (OK), the last living code talker among the 25 tribes honored with Code Talker Congressional Gold Medals on Wednesday.

The term "code talkers" refers to those Native Americans who used their tribal languages as a means of secret communication during wartime. Speaking at a separate ceremony honoring the tribes from South Dakota, Treasurer Rios noted how "some of those men learned to their surprise that their languages could be their most important weapons," adding that "their stories and their service are an inspiration to all Americans."

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This historic ceremony took place fittingly during Native American Heritage Month, when we honor the culture, heritage, traditions, and contributions of American Indians and Alaska Natives. Recognition of the Code Talkers reminds us of the fact that Native Americans have participated with distinction in the United States military for 240 years. Even though they were not accepted as American citizens until after the war was over, more than 12,000 Native Americans volunteered to serve in World War I. More Native Americans per capita have served in the military than any other ethnic group and the numbers of American Indians serving in the military have always been disproportionate to their population. That is true to this day.

The U.S. Department of Defense has so far identified 33 Native American Tribes from 11 states that are eligible to receive a gold medal with unique designs honoring the Code Talkers.  The U.S. Mint has prepared and struck 25 medals as authorized by the Code Talkers Recognition Act of 2008. Under the Act, unique gold medals are struck for each Native American tribe that had a member who served as a code talker. Silver duplicate medals are presented to the specific code talkers, their next of kin, or other personal representatives. In addition, bronze duplicates are available for sale to the public.

The Code Talker program requires 66 new coin designs and in 2013, the Mint completed production of more than 50 of these designs — approximately the same number of designs that the Mint produces in one full year for all its other coin programs combined.  The men and women of the Mint have performed brilliantly to make yesterday’s program a reality.

Below are the designs for 25 tribes that were awarded Congressional Gold Medals. The eight additional eligible tribes will receive their Congressional Gold Medals at a future date: ​ 

Cherokee Nation (Oklahoma)

The obverse design features a code talker communicating on a field phone and writing in the Cherokee language.  Inscriptions are CHEROKEE NATION and CODE TALKERS in both Cherokee Syllabary and English. 

cherokee ok 1.png

The reverse design features a variation of the Cherokee Nation seal.  Inscriptions are WORLD WAR IWORLD WAR II and ACT OF CONGRESS 2008.


Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe (South Dakota)

The obverse design depicts a World War I soldier sitting in a trench while receiving a message over his telephone.  In the lower field, a World War II soldier sits in a deciduous forest while communicating messages.  Inscriptions are WAKPA WASTE OYANKE AKICITA ZUYA IYASICA, Cheyenne River Sioux language for “good river soldiers fight the enemy,” and LAKOTA CODE TALKERS.

cherokee SD 2 .png

The reverse design features elements from the Cheyenne River Sioux flag and four tipis with buffalos imposed on it. Inscriptions are WORLD WAR I, WORLD WAR II and ACT OF CONGRESS.


Choctaw Nation (Oklahoma)

The obverse design features a soldier on his field phone writing Tanampo chito, which translates to “big gun” in the Choctaw language.  Inscriptions are CHOCTAW NATION and CODE TALKERS.  

choctaw OK 3 .png
The reverse design features the major elements from the Choctaw Nation seal, identified as the pipe hatchet and bow and arrows. Inscriptions are WORLD WAR I, WORLD WAR II and ACT OF CONGRESS 2008.


Comanche Nation (Oklahoma) 

The obverse design features the Comanche Code and Spirit Talker Monument located at Comanche Nation headquarters.  Inscriptions are COMANCHE CODE TALKERS and NUMUNU, Comanche language for “people.”

comanche OK 4.pngThe reverse design features the Comanche Nation logo, the 90th Infantry Division insignia on the left and the 4th Infantry Division insignia on the right.  Inscriptions are PUHIHWITEKWA EKASAHPANA, WORLD WAR I, WORLD WAR II and ACT OF CONGRESS 2008.  According to the Comanche Nation, when loosely interpreted, “puhihwitekwa ekasahpana” means “soldiers talking on phones made of metal.” 


Crow Creek Sioux Tribe (South Dakota)

The obverse design features a World War II soldier with phone and map in hand.  Inscriptions are HUNKPATI DAKOTA OYATE, CROW CREEK TRIBE and SIOUX CODE TALKERS.  “Hunkpati Dakota Oyate” is how the tribe refers to itself. 

crow creek SD 5.pngThe reverse design features a variation of the Crow Creek Tribe seal. Inscriptions are WORLD WAR I, WORLD WAR II and ACT OF CONGRESS 2008.


Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes (Montana)

The obverse design features a World War II infantry helmet and two feathers.  Inscriptions are FORT PECK ASSINIBOINE, SIOUX TRIBES and CODE TALKERS

fort peck MT 6.png

The reverse design features the outline of the Fort Peck Indian Reservation (a buffalo outlined by rivers and creeks), two eagle staffs, a Plains Indian dance whip and the 41stInfantry Division patch.  Inscriptions are WORLD WAR IIACT OF CONGRESS 2008, and B CO. 1ST BN 163RD INFANTRY.  


Ho-Chunk Nation (Wisconsin) 

The obverse design features a code talker communicating a message.  Inscriptions are HO-CHUNK NATION CODE TALKERS and WOINUXᾼᾼ HITÉTÉ, which translates to “talking secretly.”

ho chunk WI 7.png

The reverse design features a variation of the Ho-Chunk Nation seal, which includes an eagle, bear, peace pipe and war club.  An outline of Wisconsin is also included, signifying the tribe’s historical attachment to the state.  Inscriptions are WORLD WAR IISOUTH PACIFIC and ACT OF CONGRESS 2008.


Hopi Tribe (Arizona)

The obverse design features Hopi code talkers communicating on a field phone and using binoculars to search for the enemy.  The B-24 Liberator in the background represents the Hopi code talkers’ service in the 90th and 380th Bombardment Groups.  Inscriptions are HOPI CODE TALKERS and U.S. ARMY.               

hopi AZ 8 .png
The reverse design features a variation of the Hopi Tribe flag, which depicts a circle with dots, mountains and stalks of corn on both sides of the mountains.  The flag’s symbols represent the Hopi way of life.  Inscriptions are WORLD WAR IIACT OF CONGRESS 2008, A CODE NEVERBROKENKEPT AMERICA FREE and HOPILAVAYI, which in English means “Hopi language.” 


Kiowa Tribe (Oklahoma)

The obverse design depicts a code talker using a field phone to communicate.  Inscriptions are KIOWA TRIBE CODE TALKERS and 689TH FIELD ARTILLERY, EUROPE, the U.S. Army unit in which the Kiowa Tribe members served. 

kiowa OK 9 .png

The reverse design depicts the Kiowa Tribe logo.  Inscriptions are DEDICATION, HONOR, VALOR, WORLD WAR II and ACT OF CONGRESS 2008.  


Meskwaki Nation (Iowa)

The obverse design features two code talkers in action.  Inscriptions are MESKWAKI NATION CODE TALKERS and ne me skwa, ki i be na, which translates to “We are the red earth people.”

Meskwaki IA 10.png
The reverse design features a variation of the Meskwaki Nation logo.  Inscriptions are ACT OF CONGRESS 2008, WORLD WAR I and WORLD WAR II.


Muscogee Creek Nation (Oklahoma) 

The obverse design features a code talker speaking on his field phone.  The inscription is MUSCOGEE CREEK NATION CODE TALKERS.

muscogee OK 11.png
The reverse design depicts lacrosse sticks and a ball.  Inscriptions are WORLD WAR II and ACT OF CONGRESS 2008.


Oglala Sioux Tribe (South Dakota)

The obverse design features a code talker with a stylized eagle in the background.  Inscriptions are OGLALA and LAKOTA AKICITA IYESKA WICASA, which translates to “Indian soldier translator man.” 

Oglala SD 12.png
The reverse design features a variation of the Oglala Sioux Tribe flag.  The nine tipis represent the nine districts of Oglala – Porcupine, Wakpamni, Medicine Root, Pass Creek, Eagle Nest, White Clay, PR Village, La Creek and Wounded Knee – all of which are inscribed along the border of the design.  Other inscriptions are WORLD WAR II, ACT OF CONGRESS, 2008 and AKICITA, OKOLAKICIYE, which translates to “warrior’s society.”


Oneida Nation (Wisconsin)

The obverse design features an Oneida Nation code talker with eagle feathers, positioned similar to those in the Oneida Gustoweh (head dress) in the background.  Inscriptions are ONEIDA NATION WARRIORS and CODE TALKERS.

Oneida WI 13.png
The reverse design features the Great White Pine Tree of Peace with four white roots atop a turtle.  To the left of the tree is the foot print of a bear.  To the right of the tree is the foot print of a wolf.  The turtle, bear and wolf represent the clans of the Oneida Nation.  Atop the tree is an eagle, vigilant over the nation and warning members of any imminent danger.  The symbols near or under the turtle are a war club and six arrows bound tightly together to indicate the unified strength of the six nations of the Iroquois Confederacy.  An image of the two-row wampum belt, constructed of quahog beads, is at the bottom of the design.  Inscriptions are WORLD WAR II, ACT OF CONGRESS 2008 and LATIWʌNATÉNYESHSE which translates to “They change their words.”


Osage Nation (Oklahoma)

The obverse design depicts a code talker looking up and focusing on his task. The barbed wire is symbolic of the threat to the soldier.  Inscriptions are OSAGE NATION and CODE TALKERS.

Osage OK 14.png
The reverse design depicts a variation of the Osage Nation seal.  Inscriptions are ACT OF CONGRESS 2008, WORLD WAR I and WORLD WAR II.  


Pawnee Nation (Oklahoma)

The obverse design features the full body profile of a soldier with phone and helmet in hand.  It is inscribed PAWNEE NATION CODE TALKERS.

pawnee OK 15.png
The reverse design depicts a variation of the Pawnee Nation seal, which includes the wolf, tomahawk, peace pipe, morning star, sage, cedar and a banner inscribed with CHATICKS-SI-CHATICKS, which translates to “men-of-men.”  Other inscriptions are WORLD WAR I, WORLD WAR II and ACT OF CONGRESS 2008.


Ponca Tribe (Oklahoma)

The obverse design features two code talkers in action with Chief White Eagle, a respected leader of the Ponca Tribe, in the background.  It is inscribed PONCA TRIBE CODE TALKERS

ponca OK 16.png

The reverse design features a variation of the Ponca Tribe seal, which consists of three clustered tipis with the sun behind it.  Inscriptions are ACT OF CONGRESS 2008WORLD WAR I and WORLD WAR II.


Pueblo of Acoma Tribe (New Mexico)

The obverse design features a Pueblo of Acoma code talker scouting the area during his tour of duty in the South Pacific.  Inscriptions are PUEBLO OF ACOMA and CODE TALKERS.

pueblo NM 17.pngThe reverse design features the Pueblo of Acoma flag.  Clans depicted in the flag are the antelope (at the top center); the road runner, turkey, parrot, oak and mustard seed (to the left); and an eagle, sun, bear, pumpkin, and red and yellow corn (to the right).   In the center (bottom to top) are water, Abraham Lincoln’s Cane of Authority presented to the tribe in 1864, Pueblo of Acoma Sky City Village and wind.  Inscriptions are WORLD WAR II and ACT OF CONGRESS 2008.


Santee Sioux Nation (Nebraska)

The obverse design depicts a Santee Sioux code talker looking up and focusing on the task required.  The barbed wire is a symbol of the threat to the soldier.  Inscriptions are MDEWAKANTON, WAKPEKUTE and SANTEE DAKOTA SIOUX CODE TALKERS.   According to the Santee Sioux Tribe, “Mdewakanton” translates to “dwellers at spirit late” and “wakpekute” to “shooters amongst the leaves.”

santee NE.png
The reverse design depicts the Santee Sioux Nation seal.  Inscriptions are WORLD WAR I, WORLD WAR II and ACT OF CONGRESS 2008.


Seminole Nation (Oklahoma) 

The obverse design features Seminole Nation code talkers with an early period chief in the background.  The inscribed phrase ACEMEKET HECETV HERET OS, which translates to “It is good to climb and see,” is an actual phrase used by Seminole code talkers.  The other inscription is SEMINOLE CODE TALKERS.

seminole OK 18.png
The reverse design depicts a variation of the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma seal.  Inscriptions are WORLD WAR IIACT OF CONGRESS 2008 and SEMINOLE NATION OF OKLAHOMA.


Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate (Sioux) Tribe (South Dakota)

The obverse design depicts a soldier being shielded by an eagle to keep him safe.  Inscriptions are SISSETON WAHPETON SIOUX and DAKOTA CODE TALKERS.  “Dakota” is the dialect used by the tribe. 

sisseton SD 19.pngThe reverse design features a variation of the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate Tribe seal. The central part of the design depicts the boundaries of the reservation with seven tipis, which represent the seven districts within the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate of Lake Traverse Reservation.  Inscriptions are PACIFIC THEATRE, WORLD WAR II, LAKE TRAVERSE RESERVATION and ACT OF CONGRESS 2008.


Standing Rock Sioux Tribe (South Dakota)

The obverse design features code talkers transmitting and writing information.  Inscriptions are LAKOTA CODE TALKERS and STANDING ROCK SIOUX TRIBE

standin SD 20 .pngThe reverse design features the seal of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.  Inscriptions include PORCUPINE, LONG SOLDIER, CANNON BALL, WAKPALA, KENEL, RUNNING ANTELOPE, BEAR SOLDIER and ROCK CREEK, the eight districts of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. Additional inscriptions are ACT OF CONGRESS 2008STANDING ROCK SIOUX TRIBE, JULY 1873, WORLD WAR I and WORLD WAR II.


Tlingit Tribe (Alaska)

On the obverse design, the antenna on the soldier’s equipment is raised as he talks on his radio sending a coded message.  The soldier kneels on his left knee and holds his rifle in his right hand in case of attack. The three semicircles signify the transmission of radio signals.  It is inscribed TLINGIT WARRIORS CODE TALKERS.

tlingit 21.png

The reverse design depicts a killer whale headdress representing 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.


Tonto Apache Tribe (Arizona)

The obverse design depicts a close-up and background view of a code talker, which represents communicating a message and running a message.  Inscriptions are TONTO APACHE TRIBE and CODE TALKERS.

tonto AZ 22.pngThe reverse design features a variation of the Tonto Apache seal, which depicts four feathers, a streak of stylized lightning as depicted in Apache art and four streamers.  Inscriptions are WORLD WAR I and ACT OF CONGRESS 2008.


White Mountain Apache Tribe (Arizona)

The obverse design features code talkers behind sand bags.  The code talker in the foreground is using a field phone to deliver a message, while the one in the background writes the coded message.  Inscriptions are WHITE MOUNTAIN APACHE TRIBE and CODE TALKERS.

white mtn AZ 23.png
The reverse design features a variation of the White Mountain Apache Tribe seal.  The seal depicts a rainbow rising against the sky over a landscape with an elk standing by a river near a wikiup, or traditional dwelling.  Snow-capped mountains are in the distance, while nearer, at the base of the seal, is a pine forest.  Anearthen Apache vase, in the foreground, is flanked by two feathers and a pair of lightning bolts near the outer edge of the seal. Inscriptions are WORLD WAR II and ACT OF CONGRESS 2008.


Yankton Sioux Tribe (South Dakota)

The obverse design features two code talkers with the inscriptions YANKTON SIOUX and CODE TALKERS.

yankton SD 24 .png

The reverse design features a variation of the buffalo skull painted in honor of Yankton Sioux Tribe veterans.  It is inscribed with WORLD WAR I.


Menominee Nation (Wisconsin)

The obverse design depicts a code talker using communication equipment while three P-51 Mustangs fly overhead. Inscriptions are MENOMINEE CODE TALKERS and OMAEQNOMENEW KEMOC KEKETOTATOWAK.

menominee WI 25.png
The reverse design features the Thunderbird, which is the center element of the Menominee Nation seal; the five clans (bear, eagle, wolf, moose and crane); a sturgeon; and wild rice. The Menominee Nation is known for its reliance on wild rice and its intense fishing, especially for sturgeon. Inscriptions are WORLD WAR II and ACT OF CONGRESS 2008.


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