Parents, grandparents and siblings of CSU students crowded into the Lory Student Center ballroom Friday night to learn the secrets behind a mysterious code language.
The Navajo Code Talkers presentation, an event included in Family Weekend, held last weekend, attracted over 300 students and their family members who wished to learn more about the Navajo Indians’ role in World War II.
This evening event not only educated the crowd about a lesser-known aspect of American history, but also allowed students to bond with their families.
Freshman Kendra Hunter, sitting between her parents who had traveled from Littleton to take part in Family Weekend, said she has gone home to visit her parents twice this semester.
“I only go home when I have to,” Hunter, a business major, said with a smile.
With a T-shirt draped over her shoulders reading “Days of Old with Green and Gold,” which was the theme of Family Weekend, Kendra’s mother, Linda Selub, pointed out that she talks to Kendra online every day.
Kendra’s father, Ken Hunter, said his family chose the Navajo Code Talkers presentation as opposed to the other Friday evening choice: a showing of the movie “Monsoon Wedding.”
“We came as part of family weekend,” Ken explained. “But I’m very intrigued with (the code talkers’ presentation.) Especially with the recent movie about Native American service in World War II.”
The movie, “Windtalkers,” was released in June of 2002, portraying the Navajo Code Talkers’ experiences in World War II; it was the Hollywood rendition of what the guest speakers talked about on Friday night.
Before the presentation, other parents had time to reminisce and find out information about their students’ college lives.
Senior Jennifer Durham and her parents, Kerry and Yvonne Durham, chatted before the presentation began.
Kerry and Yvonne live in Morrison, Colo., and drove up for Friday evening.
“We came for two reasons,” Kerry said. “Our daughter’s boyfriend’s mother and sister are here from Ohio.”
His wife broke in to further explain.
“We’ve never met them before.”
Kerry said he also came to see his daughter and the Code Talkers.
“He’s a history buff,” Jennifer and Yvonne said, almost in unison.
Jennifer’s boyfriend, Brian Morrison, a senior philosophy major, attended the event with his mother and sister, who had flown in from Ohio to see him during Family Weekend. Nancy Morrison, Brian’s mother, said she sees her son about twice a year.
As the first Native American Code Talker began to speak, fathers draped their arms around their daughters’ shoulders, and mothers patted their sons’ hands.
Dressed in red caps and gold jackets, the Code Talkers’ official uniforms, William Kein and Sammy Smith, two Navajos who served in the military during World War II, relayed their cultural backgrounds and experiences in the war.
Kein discussed how Navajos and other American Indians played a vital role in World War II by supplying a code language impenetrable by enemy countries in the war. He explained that he served in the Marine Corps during the war, traveling overseas and using his culture and native language to help.
“The code came from animals,” Kein said. “The eagle, the owl, the turtle, the plants, the onions and the fish. The animals helped win the war because (the Navajos) made the codes from them.”
Kein and Smith both explained in more detail that animals, which are very distinctive in Native American culture, represented letters in the English alphabet, creating a code that other countries never broke.
Other events families attended together during the weekend included a barbeque, a brunch, movies and other presentations.
-Edited by Shandra Jordan and Becky Waddingham