By Richie Richards, Native Sun News correspondent
In recognition of Native American Month and Veteran’s Day, the Diversity Council for the South Dakota Army National Guard has formed a Committee to Honor Native American Code Talkers from South Dakota.
According to Master Sergeant James Bad Wound, the diversity council met in March to discuss what the National Guard can do to honor Native American veterans.
During the brain storming, member Larry Zimmerman thought it would be nice to honor South Dakota code talkers based on some information he read about Clarence Wolf Guts, the last surviving Lakota code talker who passed away in 2010.
Once the idea of honoring the Oceti Sakowin (formerly Sioux Nation) code talkers was formed, Bad Wound and others contacted members of the community to sit on the Heritage Committee to develop the honoring of these brave soldiers of World War I and World War II.
“Honoring Native Pride and Spirit – Yesterday, Today and Forever” is a traveling exhibit which will visit Pierre (Oct. 14), Watertown (Oct. 21), Sioux Falls (Oct. 28) and will conclude at Crazy Horse Memorial on Veteran’s Day for a special ceremony with South Dakota state leaders invited to attend.
Employees, enlisted service members and veterans from the Crazy Horse Memorial, Tanka, Black Hills Area Council #695, Boy Scouts of America, Throwback Softball, Sperlich Consulting, Rapid City Chamber of Commerce, SD National Guard Museum, SD Department of Veterans Affairs, and the SD National Guard.
Native Sun News interviewed committee chair person, James Bad Wound, who has been spearheading the movement and active in all phases of the process, including visiting all nine South Dakota tribes to personally deliver invitations for tribal leaders to attend the traveling exhibit honoring ceremonies.
James Bad Wound grew up in Igloo, SD. His father was in the Civil Service so his family traveled and moved around often, eventually settling in Rapid City where he graduated from Central High School.
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribal member joined the National Guard in 1986 and in 2010 was sent to Afghanistan during the War on Terror.
According to Bad Wound, one of the challenges he has come across as chair of this committee has been gathering the names of the many code talkers, as these lists are still being researched.
“This is a voluntary committee, so trying to get people to work around their personal schedules of home, work, and family has been challenging. We are all very busy. And getting the information from the tribes was not easy,” says Bad Wound, “Time is a factor too. We are doing a lot within a short amount of time.”
Crazy Horse Memorial will host the final date and have a blast on the mountain at 11:11 a.m to honor veterans of all wars. Native Sun News interviewed CHM Director of Sales, Amanda Allcock and CHM Educational Outreach Coordinator, Cleve Janis.
Allcock and Janis wanted to thank Co-CEO’s Jadwiga Ziokowski and Monique Ziokowski and the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation Board of Directors for accepting the invitation by the Heritage Committee to host the Oceti Sakowin Congressional Medallion Exhibit on Veteran’s Day.
“We’d like to see this as an annual event at Crazy Horse,” says Allcock.
Debbie Leber is President of the Women Veterans of the Black Hills. She is a veteran of the Cold War and works as a Liaison for Work Force Development for the Rapid City Chamber of Commerce.
“This is pretty neat to be a part of. These events are good for Rapid City, many organizations working together for a common goal is nice for our community,” says the Air Force veteran.
Leber has been working to help get the word out via the internet and social media. The Women Veterans of the Black Hills will also help to pay for food for the event at Crazy Horse.
Diversity Council member for the SD Army National Guard, Stephanie Kinsella has been active in Rapid City working with youth and the elders in her church. She sits on the Diversity Leadership Council and is married to an Oglala Lakota man.
Like many in the Native and non-Native communities, Kinsella had not heard of code talkers from South Dakota. “When the committee first met and discussed the code talker honoring, I had no idea what that was. It was way before my day. My husband gave me a brief history. I thought it was super cool,” says Kinsella.
“I have been helping with the ID tags for the family members. I’m staying really involved in the process and trying to put out different ideas. This has been a good experience with a lot of great teamwork,” closes Kinsella. Each code talker will receive a military-style ID tag for a family member in attendance to receive.
The Committee to Honor Native American Code Talkers would like to invite friends and family members of the Oceti Sakowin code talkers and the general public to attend the honoring ceremonies for the traveling exhibit.
For more information, please contact James Bad Wound at [email protected]
(Contact Richie Richards at [email protected])