The Knighthawks lacrosse team in Rochester, N.Y. has made Native American Night an essential part of their schedule. Annually fans can view stunning dancing, listen to Native American music, and learn about origins of the Creator’s Game.
But this year the team honored a local hero to start the festivities.
On January 7th they recognized 92-year-old Louis Levi Oakes, the last surviving Second World War Akwesasne Mohawk Code Talker. Seventy years after his service in the United States Army, he and his fellow code talker are getting the credit they deserve.
Realizing their grandfather had a role in an important part of history makes him a hero in their eyes, said Teresa Oakes.
Levi had been a technician in the Army with the 4th Grade, Company B, 442nd Signal Battalion. He joined up as a code talker and spent over two and a half years in the Pacific Theatre as the United States and its allies freed islands and territories controlled by Japanese forces. Messages sent in their Mohawk language puzzled the Japanese who couldn’t understand the language. Their open lines of communication played a large role in the coming Allied victory.
In the middle of the fight against resolute Japanese resistance was Oakes, oftentimes behind enemy lines sending messages to American forces. His story and those of other code talkers, unknown until recently, are finally seeing the light of day and they are being honored for their courage.
Thank you to our code talkers, who didn’t listen and kept speaking their language. Without their service, we might not be here today, said St. Regis Mohawk Tribal Chief Ron LaFrance Jr. It’s time for their elders and families to be recognized for their courageous efforts to secure the peace, not only in America and Akwesasne, but in the world.
Congress passed the Code Talkers Recognition Act in 2008 to pay tribute to all Native American code talkers who served in the U.S. military during WWII and WWI. Ten Native communities contributed code talkers, including Mohawks.
Congresswoman Elise Stefanik (R-Willsboro) at the Travis Solomon Memorial Lacrosse Box in Generations Park in Akwesasne said on May 28, that their selfless sacrifice wasn’t recognized by the nation. Sadly, these heroes were told not to say anything of their critical roles in military campaigns. For many, that meant their friends and families were unaware of the contributions they made.
She spoke the words to an audience of 550 people gathered together on the Memorial Day Weekend for the presentation of two dozen Congressional Medals, the highest civilian award that can be awarded to an individual by the U.S. Congress. Oakes, seated in the front row, was presented with a silver medal for his contribution.
Since getting the medal, Oakes has been honored a number of times for his contribution as a code talker. In September, his daughter Dora went with him on the 17th Honour Flight to the nation’s capital. A high point of the journey was the escort from more than 80 motorcyclists during their 90-minute trip to Plattsburgh, Two Row Times reported.
In Washington, D.C. Oakes along with 13 other veterans visited the Air Force, World War II, Korean War, and Vietnam Veterans monuments, the Pentagon and at Arlington National Cemetery – the Changing of the Guard.