Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Zonnie Gorman talks about “Growing Up With Heroes: The Navajo Code-Talkers of World War II – A Daughter’s Journey”

This is a conversation with Zonnie Gorman about her work on Navajo Code Talkers. Zonnie will be doing a lectuer tour accross Canada entitled “Growing Up With Heroes: The Navajo Code-Talkers of World War II – A Daughter’s Journey”

Ms Gorman spoke at Migii Agamik (Bald Eagle Lodge) at the University of Manitoba on Monday March 26, 2012 at 10h30.

This lecturer series is made possible by the U.S. Consulate of Winnipeg, the U of M Aboriginal Student Centre, Centre for Defence and Security Studies, Department of History, and Department of Native Studies at the U of Manitoba.
Zonnie Gorman is a recognized  historian on the Navajo Code Talkers of World War II.

She is the daughter of Carl  Gorman, one of the original Code  Talkers and
has lectured extensively throughout the United States and Canada at  universities, colleges, museums and other institutions, including  the Museum of the American  Indian and N.A.S.A. Headquarters  in Washington, D.C.   



To Learn More (podcast):

Xavier-Gabriel Ouellette 11 Nov 2013


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  2. Zonnie Gorman’s work on the Navajo Code-Talkers of World War II is a great reminder that teaching Indigenous perspectives in subjects such as history or social studies can, and really should, seek to include these perspectives in a variety of lessons and not simply stand-alone lessons on “Aboriginal issues”. In discussing her father, the code-talkers, and the disparity between the code-talkers amazing contribution to the Allied war effort in the Pacific Gorman reminded me of the many First Nations contributions to Canadian efforts in both world wars. These include, but are certainly not limited to Tommy Prince, F.O. Loft, and Harold Crowchild. (http://www.airborneassociation.com/e/media/stories/prince/ http://iportal.usask.ca/docs/Native_studies_review/v4/issue1-2/pp95-117.pdf http://www.calgarysun.com/2013/01/17/well-known-tsuu-tina-nation-elder-and-war-veteran-harold-crowchild-dies)
    There is also Joseph Boyden’s amazing novel Three Day Road, which explores the cross-cultural experience of war and its aftermath within an Oji-Cree community following the First World War.
    The idea of recognizing Aboriginal heroes within the grand narratives of the world wars not only offers non-Aboriginal students a chance to recognize the great variety of contributions to Canada’s military history, it allows Aboriginal students to find themselves represented in Canadian triumphs. In teaching the case of the code-talkers, existing binaries between ‘traditional’ cultures and ‘advanced’ or ‘technological’ cultures are also disrupted. Aboriginal skill and ingenuity are highlighted and the perceived superiority of technology is called into question as no amount of Japanese code-breaking machines or experts could crack the Navajo language.
    Teaching students about the contributions of Aboriginal peoples, contributions that often included the ultimate sacrifice of one’s life, during the world wars also opens up opportunities to discuss the irony, or hypocrisy, of governments that were willing to have Aboriginal soldier die for their freedom, while so severely restricting Aboriginal peoples’ freedoms at home. In another documentary about the code-breakers (https://tv.azpm.org/s/3468-navajo-code-talkers/) a former Navajo soldier talks about the disjuncture between the praise of the Navajo language in the context of the war while back home children at state-run schools were still harshly punished for speaking their mother tongue.

  3. When learning about history, I have often found myself drawn to the Second World War. Not only do I find the subject very interesting, but a good friend of mine served with the Canadian military in Europe. His unit landed on Juno Beach during the D-Day invasion in 1944. While he usually tries not to talk about his experiences, he sometimes can’t help it and the stories spill out. Reading about death and trauma can never compare to hearing about it firsthand from a veteran. While I am familiar with the Navajo Code Talkers, the interview with Zonnie Gorman, an expert on these men, introduced me to several new details. I was surprised to learn that members were not allowed to speak about their experiences for many years after the war just in case their coded language would be needed during future conflicts. It must have been extremely difficult for the soldiers to remain silent about their experiences during the Pacific campaigns, as well as the vital role they played in the success of American forces. Overall, I found it extremely encouraging to hear about a group of Native Americans who overcame great odds to make a difference during the war. In doing so, they helped preserve their traditional language for future generations. I also liked the fact that they have been recognized for their service and honored for the heroes they are. While the Navajo Code Talkers served in the United States Marine Corps, many First Nations people have served (and continue to serve) in the Canadian military, with a few even achieving legendary status in elite units. Despite this, I feel that this story is often neglected. If I ever find myself teaching a class on Canadian history, I will make sure that we do not learn about World War Two from only a single point of view.

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