Last Lakota Code Talker Laid to Rest

Chapters continue to close. The death of the last Spanish American War veteran snuck up on us. It really wasn’t that long ago when Nathan Cook, 106, passed away in1992. Gone was the last connection to images of Teddy Roosevelt and San Juan Hill.

Cook died as we were gearing up for the 75th anniversary of the Great War. What war? Few cared. Eventually the last U.S. veteran of that war will pass on, though at 109, former Army corporal Frank Buckles appears in good health and remains busy. He continues to lobby lawmakers about his cause to erect World War I monument on the Mall in Washington, D.C.

Veterans of the Second World War seem to be passing away at an alarming rate. They fought in the war that changed the world and are as treasured as the veterans of the Civil War were. Still, each loss closes a chapter, like that of the World War II Lakota Code Talkers.

The last Lakota Code Talker was Clarence Wolf Guts, 86, who lived at the South Dakota Veterans Home in Hot Springs. He was buried June 22 in Black Hills National Cemetery near Sturgis, the motorcycle Mecca. (Maybe this will give those two-wheeled patriots a place to visit.)

The youth of Native American tribes joined the war effort. Possibly the most well-known are Marine Corps’ Navajo Code Talkers, but there were Comanche Code Talkers and Lakota, too. The Native American languages baffled enemy forces, making them inherently perfect codes. This communication coup was a boost for the Americans in the bleak, early days of the war.

As far as we can tell, there were a few code talkers during World War I, but the code talkers are best known for their work during World War II. Below is a list of tribes and the wars in which they served.

World War I

  • Cherokee
  • Cheyenne
  • Choctaw (15)
  • Comanche
  • Osage
  • Yankton Sioux

World War II

  • Assiniboine
  • Cherokee
  • Chippewa/Oneida (17)
  • Choctaw
  • Comanche (17)
  • Hopi (11)
  • Kiowa
  • Menominee
  • Muscogee/Creek and Seminole
  • Navajo (about 420)
  • Pawnee
  • Sac and Fox/Meskwaki (19)
  • Sioux – Lakota and Dakota dialects

America will continue to close chapter after chapter. Losing a generation shaped by an iconic bond the likes of the Second World War leaves a nation increasingly shaped by electronic gadgets and reality TV.

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