Senate passes bill seeking Navajo code talkers stamp

PHOENIX-The state Senate approved and forwarded to the House a resolution that would call on the U.S. Postal Service to create a stamp honoring Navajo code talkers. The resolution was approved on Monday, March 5.

SCR 1010 also would advocate stamps commemorating the World War II service of Japanese-American soldiers and the black pilots and crew of the Tuskegee Airmen.

Meg Burton Cahill, D-Tempe, who cast the only vote against the resolution, tried unsuccessfully last week to seek recognition instead for "Native American Indian code talkers" because members of other also tribes served.

"I in no way mean to be disrespectful to the Navajo, but this is disrespectful to all other Native Americans who served," Burton Cahill said after the vote.

A leader of the Hopi Tribe said the measure overlooks the contributions of code talkers from other American Indian tribes.

"We had our own Hopi code talkers, and none of their codes were broken by the enemy," Philip Quochytewa, a Hopi Tribal Council member and Vietnam veteran, said Monday. "There needs to be something to recognize all Native American code talkers."

Quochytewa said his uncle, Travis Yaiva, is the last surviving Hopi code talker.

"It's like honoring one regiment in the army but no one else," said Janet Regner, a representative for the Hopi Tribe. "It is insulting to those tribes that did send code talkers, and it's historically and factually untrue."

But a member of the Navajo Nation said that it is important to recognize the specific achievements of code talkers.

"If you are going to do a Native American code talker stamp, it should be a set," said Michael Smith, a Navajo whose father served as a code talker. "Clumping all tribes together takes away from the specialties and specific things these warriors had done for the [U.S.]"

Members of more than 10 American Indian tribes served as code talkers in World War II, according to the Smithsonian Institution. The other tribes include the Hopi, Comanche, Meskwaki, Sioux and Crow.

About 400 Navajo code talkers served in the Marine Corps, far more than the number from other tribes. In 2001, President Bush honored 21 surviving Navajo code talkers at the White House.

The resolution and a SB 1192, which would appropriate $100,000 for a Navajo code talkers monument outside the State Capitol, have prompted debate over whether it is appropriate to honor Navajos over code talkers from other tribes.

Gov. Janet Napolitano signed legislation in 2003 calling for the monument to be added to the plaza outside the State Capitol.

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