The last Mohawk Code Taker, who helped U.S. soldiers in WWII, has died at the age of 94.
Louis Levi Oakes was one of roughly 24 members of the Mohawk tribe who helped American soldiers develop coded language to communicate during battle of WWII. Roughly 30 Indigenous languages were used in battle. The Navajo tribe is most often associated with code talkers.
Oakes was born on the Mohawk territory of Akwesasne. Oakes served in New Guinea, the Philippines, and the south Pacific. For decades, he reportedly kept his service a secret, even from his relatives.
The code talker program was not completely declassified until 1968 and it took decades for the contributions of Indigenous soldiers to be recognized. Code talkers were formally recognized in 2008 with the Code Talkers Recognition Act.
In 2016, Oakes and other Mohawk code talkers were awarded the Congressional Silver Medal for their service. He is survived by three daughters, four sons, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great grandchildren.