Opinion

Simon Moya-Smith: Chester Nez punished for speaking Navajo






Chester Nez, one of the original Navajo Code Talkers, in 2013. Photo from Kansas University

Simon Moya-Smith reflects on the passing of Chester Nez, one of the original 29 Code Talkers who devised an unbreakable code during World War II:
When an elder dies in Indian country -- especially someone as revered and decorated as Nez, the World War II veteran -- we, Native Americans, feel it, all of us, regardless of tribe or nation.

We are also reminded that, not long ago, in the 19th and 20th centuries, Native American culture, including our languages, was considered a threat to U.S. national security.

Then, the government worked in collusion with Christian institutions to stamp out Native American languages, including Navajo.

"A great general has said that the only good Indian is a dead one," Capt. Richard Pratt famously read from a paper at an 1892 convention. "In a sense, I agree with the sentiment, but only in this: that all the Indian there is in the race should be dead. Kill the Indian in him, and save the man."

Pratt was the founder of the Indian boarding schools, institutions charged with turning the "red Indian" into the "noble savage."

Get the Story:
Simon Moya-Smith: Code talker Chester Nez and the tragic history of native language (CNN 6/6)

Some Opinions:
Final Monster Slayer dies, but story lives on (The Arizona Republic 6/5)
Carolina C. Butler: Native American vets couldn't vote until after war (The Arizona Republic 6/9)

Also Today:
Chester Nez, 93, Dies; Navajo Words Washed From Mouth Helped Win War (The New York Times 6/6)

Related Stories:
Last original Navajo Code Talker Chester Nez passes on at 93 (6/5)