Last World War II Mohawk Code Talker Has Died

May 30, 2019

The St. Regis Mohawk Tribe has announced that the last surviving World War II Mohawk code talker has died. Levi Oakes was one of 17 Mohawks from the Akwesasne  tribe in northern New York that the Department of Defense confirmed used their native language as an unbreakable code to transmit messages during WWII. In September 2016, Oakes and his daughter Diane Swamp traveled to Plattsburgh to participate in an Honor Flight. They spoke to WAMC's North Country Bureau Chief Pat Bradley about his experience as a codetalker.

“We laid out the field wires out in the jungles and all of that stuff. It’s exciting but it’s not too good of a job. It’s dangerous over there! They were supposed to put me on the radio but they put me on field wire communications and all that stuff.  There’s only one or two persons I’d talk to when I was there in Mohawk. It was a secret code. We’d talk our own language in Mohawk with the other person. But they’d give us a paper to read on it and you gotta translate it.”

Mohawk code talker Louis Levi Oakes served in the South Pacific. He is the recipient of the Congressional Silver Medal and the Silver Star. He received New York's highest civilian honor for exceptional or heroic acts: the Liberty Medal. In 2018, he was inducted into the New York State Senate Veterans’ Hall of Fame. He was also honored by the Canadian House of Commons and Assembly of First Nations. He died Tuesday at 94.