WWII Code Talker Levi Oakes Visits CDSBEO Educators
On Tuesday, May 1, grade 10 history teachers from secondary schools across the CDSBEO, gathered for a day of learning and authentic experiences. The group had the opportunity to hear stories from World War II Code Talker, Levi Oakes, who is the last surviving Akwesasne Mohawk Code Talker. Oakes received the Congressional Silver Medal in 2016.
Code Talkers were members of the army that received special training so they they could relay messages in their tribal languages. Oakes worked alongside other Mohawks for the United States Army. His service included 2.5 years served in the Asiatic Pacific.
Now 96, he recalled his time as a Code Talker to the CDSBEO group.
“We were in the Philippines and New Guinea Islands, in the jungle. We had to run in the jungle to deliver messages – that was my job,” explained Oakes.
“It wasn’t too much fun, it was out in the jungle,” he joked.
The Code Talkers delivered thousands of messages, in Mohawk, to other Code Talkers during World War II. In total, there were 19 Code Talkers from the Akwesasne region, however, there were other Indigenous groups from other areas of the United States who also worked as Code Talkers for the US Army.
“We used a compass to navigate the jungle, sometimes alone,” he explained. “It was my job to transfer the messages.”
The group also had a presentation from Romaine Mitchell, the Regional Indigenous Education officer with the Ministry of Education. Mitchell spoke to teachers about the new First Nations, Inuit and Métis expectations for the Social Studies, History and Geography curricula. He encouraged teachers to be open to the learning, and to learning alongside their students.
“Don’t be afraid to say ‘I don’t know’ and engage with your students to find out answers,” he noted.
Educators asked many questions to both of the visitors. The day was an enriching opportunity of sharing cultural information.