Tag Archives: Mohawk

“Levi Oakes, last WWII Mohawk Code Talker, dead at 94”

“Canadian Second World War veteran Levi Oakes, who was the last survivor of the men identified as Mohawk Code Talkers, has died. He was 94 and died at home with his family at his side, his daughter Dora said.” The Globe

Levi Oakes, from Akwesasne, receives a standing ovation after being recognized by the Speaker of the House of Commons Tuesday, December 4, 2018 in Ottawa. A. Wyld, Canadian Press

Excerpt: Levi Oakes, last WWII Mohawk Code Talker, dead at 94, The Globe

“Though born in Canada, Mr. Oakes had enlisted in the U.S. military. He became a Code Talker, one of the indigenous servicemen who used their native languages to stymie the enemy’s attempts to eavesdrop on their units’ communications.

Louis Levi Oakes registered for the U.S. Army at the age of 18.

He was one of 17 Mohawks recognized under the Code Talkers Recognition Act of 2008, an American law that granted Congressional Medals to First Nations and individuals who participated in those programs.

‘He bravely served in the Second World War … Thank you for your loving grace and service to our people,’ Perry Bellegarde, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, said in a Tweet. ‘These were immense contribution by indigenous people to the war effort,’ Liberal MP Marc Miller, the parliamentary secretary to the minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, said.

“We’ve lost a hero. We’ve lost someone who selflessly served.’

Mr. Bellegard and Mr. Miller were among the people who in recent years paid tribute to Mr. Oakes. Two years ago he received the Congressional Silver Medal. Last December, he was introduced in the House of Commons, met Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and was honoured at a meeting of the Assembly of First Nations…

Louis Levi Oakes was born on Jan. 23, 1925, on the Canadian side of Akwesasne, the Mohawk reserve that straddles Quebec, Ontario and New York State. He was the second of the five children of Angus Oakes and Mary Porke.

He left school early and, since many Akwesasne Mohawks move freely across the U.S.-Canada border, he went to work in a steel plant in Buffalo, N.Y.

In an interview with the U.S. Congress’ Veterans History Project, Mr. Oakes recalled that after the war started, he never considered serving with the Canadian army. He said that was because one of his brothers had been handcuffed and roughed up by Canadian police for failing to report for military induction… Instead, shortly after Mr. Oakes turned 19, in January 1944, he enlisted in the U.S. military. ‘I didn’t mind it, I was young,’ he said…’They found out I was a Mohawk,’ he recalled. ‘The top commander gave me a piece of paper I had to translate to Mohawk.’

That steered him towards the signal branch and a Code Talker position so that, before he boarded a troop transport in San Francisco, he took the secrecy oath that he would heed for seven decades…Following Japan’s surrender in August 1945, Mr. Oakes spent four winter months there with the occupation forces. Eventually, his unit was disbanded, he was sent back to the Philippines before shipping back to the U.S. Back home, he married Annabelle Mitchelle and they raised seven boys and three daughters.

Like many other Mohawk men, he became an ironworker, commuting to construction sites across the continent to erect the metal skeletons of bridges and skyscrapers. He said he worked on bridges in Buffalo and New York City.”