Exhibit explores history of American Indian code talkers during World War I

University of Arkansas at Little Rock

The Sequoyah National Research Center at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock will host an exhibit on the history of Americans Indians who served as code talkers during World War I.

An opening reception for the exhibit, “Untold Stories: American Indian Code Talkers of World War I,” will begin at 1:45 p.m. Nov. 4 in the Sequoyah National Research Center, which is located in Suite 500 of University Plaza. The reception will feature World War I songs performed by the Conway Women’s Chorus. The exhibit will run until Feb. 2.

“The Choctaws in World War I were the first Code Talkers utilized by the American military and were invaluable in leading a victory against Germany,” Archivist Erin Fehr said. “We want to celebrate their service, honor their sacrifice, and give faces to the men behind the title ‘Code Talker.'”

During World War I, Americans Indians transmitted military messages between the United States and its allies in their native languages. The Germans, who were adept at code breaking, could not decode the messages, as they were unfamiliar with Native American languages.

Known as code talkers, Americans Indians served an important role in protecting military messages, and the effort was expanded significantly during World War II and included additional tribes.

“In October 1918, Germany was defeating the Allied forces at every turn due to easily tapping into communications,” Fehr said. “When commanding officers overheard Choctaw men speaking to each other in their language, it was decided to try using these men to transmit messages over the telephone. This proved successful, and the messages were never broken. In addition to the Choctaw men, Comanche, Osage, Cherokee, Standing Rock Sioux, and Cheyenne served as Code Talkers.”

For more information, contact Erin Fehr at ehfehr@ualr.edu or call 501-569-8336.

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