By Roberta John
WINDOW ROCK, AZ.
Navajo elders are priceless treasures.
And once in a grey moon, you may be fortunate to meet a Navajo hero who is nearly one century year-old.
Chester Nez in 1942
The most prominent Navajo hero today is undoubtedly 90-year-old Navajo Code Talker Chester Nez from Jones Ranch, New Mexico. Nez is the only living member left of the original 29 U.S. Marine Corps 382nd Platoon who used the Navajo language to develop an unbreakable secret code in World War II to defeat the Japanese.
Nez will be the grand marshal for the 66th Annual Navajo Nation Fair Parade, which will incorporate the theme “Appreciating Tradition.” The Navajo Nation Fair is the “Largest American Indian Fair” in North America.
For the first time in the fair’s history, the public
submitted nominations for the parade grand marshal and a new category, celebrity grand marshal.
The celebrity grand marshal will be Darlene Yazzie who is an on-air radio host for KTNN (a tribal radio station owned by the Navajo Nation).
It was a natural to select Nez as the grand marshal who was an unsung Navajo hero for many years while Yazzie is well-known throughout grassroot Navajos as a hallmark for helping to increase awareness about traditional Navajo culture. In prior years, Navajo Nation Fair staff and the parade committee made the selection.
Navajo Nation Fair Manager Norma Bowman, said, “We decided to let the public get involved in the parade grand marshal nomination – I think they made an excellent choice.
We’re very happy and honored to have Mr. Chester Nez, the last living original Navajo Code Talker join us during the Navajo Nation Fair parade. This will be a rare opportunity for everyone to see and meet Mr. Nez.”
Bowman added, “There’s nothing more fitting than to have Mr. Nez as our grand marshal because we appreciate all of our veterans for their dedication and service so we can enjoy our freedom and have events such as the Navajo Nation Fair. This will be a great time to pay tribute to our Navajo elders and celebrate their accomplishments.”
The Navajo Code Talkers never fail to awe. Perhaps the 66th Annual Navajo Nation Fair may end up being the most memorable since Nez is the only original Navajo Code Talker still alive.
Bowman noted, “The overall population of the Navajo Nation is young so we are always very happy and honored to have elders participate in a host of events that we sponsor or who choose to just enjoy the Navajo Nation Fair. Our elders are precious and full of wisdom – they provide us a glimpse of the past and are the key to our future.”
Chester Nez Navajo Code Talker & Harold Carey
Code Talker: The First and Only Memoir By One of the Original Navajo Code Talkers of WWII
He is the only original World War II Navajo code talker still alive—and this is his story . . .
His name wasn’t Chestesr Nez. That was the English name he was assigned in kindergarten. And in boarding school at Fort Defiance, he was punished for speaking his native language, as the teachers sought to rid him of his culture and traditions. But discrimination didn’t stop Chester from answering the call to defend his country after Pearl Harbor, for the Navajo have always been warriors, and his upbringing on a New Mexico reservation gave him the strength—both physical and mental—to excel as a marine.
During World War II, the Japanese had managed to crack every code the United States used. But when the Marines turned to its Navajo recruits to develop and implement a secret military language, they created the only unbroken code in modern warfare—and helped assure victory for the United States over Japan in the South Pacific.