JACL Honors Navajo Code Talkers, Denounces Trump’s Remarks

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President Donald Trump with Navajo Code Talkers Fleming Begaye, Thomas Begay and Peter MacDonald. (White House photo)

WASHINGTON — The Japanese American Citizens League issued the following statement on Nov. 28:

“On Nov. 27, the White House honored the incredible service of Navajo Code Talkers. Their ingenuity, intelligence, and their contributions, especially during WWII, are widely heralded as instrumental in saving countless lives. The President marred what should have been an honorable event by referring to a member of Congress [Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts] as ‘Pocahontas.’

“The statement by the president also belittles the accomplishments of Pocahontas as a historical figure and the legacy of her and her tribe.

“As Japanese Americans, we remember the legacy of the Japanese American WW II soldiers who, like these Native Americans, served their country despite the country’s racist history against them. Also, as Japanese Americans, we understand the hurt of our accomplishments being degraded by racist tropes, cultural distillation, and ‘jokes.’

“The Navajo Code Talkers deserve nothing but respect, especially at a long overdue ceremony honoring them.

“We call for the president to apologize to the Navajo Code Talkers and to actively demonstrate respect for the Native Americans he intended to honor.”

The Navajo Code Talkers, who served with the Marines in the Pacific Theater during World War II, transmitted secret tactical messages using a code based on their native language, which the Japanese were unable to decipher.

Trump was also criticized for holding the event in front of a portrait of President Andrew Jackson, who conducted brutal military campaigns against Native Americans and forcibly removed them from their lands. Trump has repeatedly invoked and praised his predecessor in the White House, who served from 1829 to 1837.

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