Chief Gregory E. Pyle and Judy Allen discuss the different proofs of the design of the Choctaw Nation Code Talker Congressional Medal. (DAVID FITZGERALD photo)
Medal design for Code Talkers ready for U.S. Mint
From the desk of Chief Gregory E. Pyle
The long overdue recognition for the Choctaw Code Talkers has accomplished a victory over another milestone! In 2008, The Code Talker Recognition Act was passed by Congress, paving the way for a Congressional Medal to be given to Native American Code Talkers. After many months of working with various artists at the United States Mint, the design for the medal has been collectively endorsed by both the Commission of Fine Arts and the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee!
The U.S. Mint is completing the necessary notifications to the Secretary of Treasury regarding the completed list of tribes and recipients of the Congressional Medals. After this task is complete, they will forward the designs immediately for the Secretary’s final approval.
It has been a delayed and challenging path since beginning the crusade for acknowledgment of the efforts and success of the Native American Code Talkers in our military. I appreciate friends and supporters like Congressman Dan Boren who continued the endeavors in Congress to obtain the medals. Many thanks go to the team at Choctaw Nation who enthusiastically worked on the effort, and to the descendants of the Code Talkers and the Army National Guard generals who walked the halls of Congress with me to lobby the effort! Most of all, thank you to all the Choctaw people who called and wrote your Senators and members of Congress!
I did not realize it would take such a length of time to get the medals designed and issued, once we had the law passed! The U.S. Mint wants to make sure every single element of the design is exactly perfect, and there are large committees who oversee the process. There are currently 21 tribes who will receive one gold medal each to represent the fact that Code Talkers came from their tribe.
Each family who has a Code Talker will receive one silver medal, to represent the individual Code Talker. Bronze duplicates of the medals are going to be sold by the U.S. Mint at a cost of $39.95 plus $4.95 shipping and handling. As soon as these are available, we will let you know.
The medal for each tribe is unique. The front of our medal will feature a Choctaw soldier with serious expression, writing a word on a tablet in our language that means “big gun.” The soldier is wearing a World War I uniform and is listening on a field telephone.
The diamond border on the reverse is very important to the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, and appears as an iconic design on traditional clothing and art as a way to honor our surroundings. The diamonds symbolize the diamondback rattlesnake to show a consciousness for nature and awareness that people must be careful to treat our surroundings with respect, caution, and prudence.
The reverse also has the Great Seal of the Choctaw Nation, featuring three arrows representing historic warrior chiefs Apukshunnubbee, Pushmataha and Moshulatubbee, a smoking pipe hatchet that would have been passed in ancient councils of both peace and war, and the bow, which the Choctaws keep unstrung in times of peace, but are known to have “ready to string in an instant, to protect home and family.”
The Choctaw Code Talkers were the original Code Talkers, and their success paved the way for the strategy of using Native American languages as “code” in battlefield messages during World War I and World War II. Thanks to their efforts, many lives were saved, and many battles were won. Yakoke to our telephone warriors!