Chester Nez tells his story, life as a Code Talker

June 4, 2014

From the Navajo Codetalkers website:

Published on Sep 25, 2012

This documentary film was researched, photographed, edited and produced by students of Winona State University (Winona, Minnesota) and Diné College (Tsaile, Arizona, Navajo Nation) during summer 2012. It contains stories Chester Nez of Chichiltah, New Mexico, told the students during several hours of interviews about his life. Chester is the last surviving member of The Original 29 Navajo Code Talkers who were recruited in 1942 to create a code using the Navajo language for use in the battlefield so the South Pacific. Chester and the rest of The Original 29 then took the code they created into battle. This documentary film is archived at the Navajo Nation Museum, Navajo Nation Library, Winona State University Library, and Diné College Library, and will be archived at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian. The film is part of the Navajo Oral History project, a multi-year collaboration between the Winona State University Mass Communication Department and Diné College– The official Tribal College of the Navajo Nation.

 

Chester Nez told his story, for all the Code Talkers, often.  I last met him in 2012, when he was in Carrollton, Texas, telling the story and selling his books.

Navajo Code Talker, Marine Chester Nez, signing copies of his book, Carrollton, Texas Oct 14 2012

Navajo Code Talker, Marine Cpl. Chester Nez, signing copies of his book Code Talkers, in  Carrollton, Texas, October 14, 2012


Chester Nez, last surviving Navajo Code Talker from World War II, has died

June 4, 2014

Chester Nez saved America, but couldn’t tell anyone about it for decades.  His work was ignored.

He lived to see some recognition for the work he and his fellow Code Talkers did.

There are many morals to his tale, particularly appropriate now as we wind down two wars.

 

Navajo Code Talker, Marine Chester Nez, signing copies of his book, Code Talker, in Carrollton, Texas, October 14, 2012; photo by Ed Darrell

Navajo Code Talker, Marine Chester Nez in the yellow shirt, signing copies of his book, Code Talker, in Carrollton, Texas, October 14, 2012; photo by Ed Darrell

Mr. Nez died this morning, Wednesday, June 4, at his home in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  He was 93.

Others are saying:

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Milky Way in Navajoland: YIKÁÍSDÁHÁ

May 13, 2014

Milky Way over Monument Valley Navajo Park. Photo by Gavin Heffernan and Harun Mehmedinović, from the video

Milky Way over Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park. Photo by Gavin Heffernan and Harun Mehmedinović, from the video (which also features Grand Canyon National Park)

Phil Plait’s column/blog at Slate, Bad Astronomy, put me on to this one.  Wow.

You can see it at Vimeo, and read a lot more about the making of the film.

YIKÁÍSDÁHÁ (Navajo for Milky Way or “That Which Awaits the Dawn”)

Phil wrote:

And that they do. The Milky Way is the star of the show; the galactic bulge, disk, and dark fingers of vast dust lanes as clear as if this were taken from space. Well, sort of; I was impressed by the mix of clouds and sky, to be honest. The contrast was interesting, and it’s rather amazing the Milky Way could stand out so clearly above the cloud line.

One thing I want to point out specifically: At 2:10 in, a meteor flashes and leaves behind a curling wisp of what looks like smoke. This is called a persistent train, the vaporized remains of the meteoroid itself, and can glow for several minutes. The upper level winds from 60–100 km above Earth’s surface are what blow it into those curlicues.

More details, for more films from these guys:

Shot and Produced by: Gavin Heffernan and Harun Mehmedinović
Music: A Seated Night (Ambient) by Moby. Courtesy MobyGratis.com / Unknown Native Chant
Thanks: Northern Arizona University, Grand Canyon National Park, Monument Valley Tribal Park.

See other Sunchaser Timelapses on Vimeo here: vimeo.com/album/189653
LIKE Sunchaser Pictures on Facebook! facebook.com/SunchaserPicturesPage
LIKE Bloodhoney on Facebook! facebook.com/blood.honey.by.harun.mehmedinovic

For more from the artists:

BloodHoney.com
SunchaserPictures.com

 


Sky and stars peeking into Antelope Canyon

April 11, 2014

Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon, near Page Arizona, get more visitors annually than just about any other canyon except the Grand Canyon.  They cover only a few miles.

You’re not familiar with Antelope Canyon?  You’ve seen the photos, even if you don’t know the name of the place — it’s a slot canyon, carved as with a wandering knife into the sandstone at the top of the cliffs leading to the Colorado River.

Over at EarthSky, I found a view you haven’t seen before.

Antelope Canyon at night by Sergio Garcia Rill. Stunning contrast of rock painted by light, and stars.  From EarthSky.com.  Visit Sergio’s website and read more about this adventure.

Antelope Canyon at night by Sergio Garcia Rill. Stunning contrast of rock painted by light, and stars. From EarthSky.com. Visit Sergio’s website and read more about this adventure.

Details from EarthSky.com:

Sergio Garcia Rill captured this beautiful image from within Upper Antelope Canyon in Arizona, which is the most visited slot canyon in the United States. A slot canyon is significantly deeper than it is wide. It’s formed by water rushing through rock. Sergio wrote:

During my recent trip to Arizona, I stopped by Page to get a chance at touring the now famous canyons (Upper and Lower Antelope) and I also had a chance to visit Upper Antelope at night.

I couldn’t really get too many shots with the sky (since the openings were very narrow and limited) but I liked this one in particular since I got a chance to set it up and do the light painting myself a couple of chambers behind from where my guide and another participant were working on another shot.

Thank you, Sergio.

Visit Sergio Garcia Rill’s Facebook page.

Click here for info about traveling to Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon.

Readers here may remember Page was the final destination of my late oldest brother, Jerry.  To his credit, he urged me to make a special trip to see Antelope Canyon, because most of the times I visited, it was closed, or impassable.  Alas, I have not yet been to the place.

This is one of the gems of the Diné, the Navajo Nation, and another good reason to get familiar with redrock country.


Lightning strike in Monument Valley, Navajo Nation

February 20, 2014

Lightning strikes in Monument Valley, on the Navajo Reservation, Utah.  Photography by Carolyn Slay (Oak Ridge, TN); Monument Valley, UT

Lightning strikes in Monument Valley, on the Navajo Reservation, Utah. Photography by Carolyn Slay (Oak Ridge, TN); Monument Valley, UT Feb. 20 2014 Via smithsonianmag.com.

Lightning strike in Monument Valley, photo by Carolyn Slay of Oak Ridge, Tennessee; Smithsonian Magazine Tumblr Photo of the Day, February 20, 2014.

Rocks on the right can also be seen in this photo; can you help pinpoint the location of the photographer, and names of any of the other formations?


Timelapse tour of natural wonders of the Southwest U.S. – spectacular!

July 19, 2011

Here’s a video I would like to use as a a warm-up, or prompt to a study of American geography.

Evosia Photography, the hangout of Henry Jun Wah Lee, has a short but spectacular tour of several sites in the American Southwest deserts — Arizona, California, Utah, and Navajoland — timelapse movies, usually shot at night with starry backgrounds.

He has set the photography against the music of a band named Conjure One, an edited version of their recording “Manic Star.”

Certainly there is copyright, at least a Creative Commons license — you should attribute this film to Mr. Lee and the music to Conjure One.

Can you identify these sites?  Can your students?  Can they map out a plan to visit these sites as one exercise?  Can you and your students identify any of the constellations on view? (List of sites, from Mr. Lee, below the fold.)

Have you, or your students, ever visited any of those sites, and gazed at the stars?  Why not?

2,912 looks

Read the rest of this entry »


Original Navajo Code Talkers: Two remain

October 1, 2010

Alan Dale June died in September in Window Rock, Arizona.  He was 91.

Alan Dale June, Navajo Code Talker, accepts Congressional Gold Medal from President George W. Bush

Alan Dale June, Navajo Code Talker, accepted the Congressional Gold Medal from President George W. Bush, in a ceremony in the U.S. Capitol on July 26, 2001. June died in September 2010, at 91. Photo Credit: John Klemmer, U.S. Senate Photo Studio.

June was one of three surviving Navajo Code Talkers out of 29 who developed the code and system by which they communicated by radio across the South Pacific Ocean, in Navajo.  Using a simple code for troops, ships, airplanes and other armaments, the Navajo Code Talkers passed crucial information between far-flung American forces, on regular radio waves.  Japanese forces could easily intercept the broadcasts, but they did not speak Navajo, nor did they break the Navajo code.

After the original 29, many more Navajos got training and performed the critical communications functions.

I met several of these men through the good graces of my brother, Jerry Jones, who helped promote their recognition when he worked in Page, Arizona, in public relations for the Salt River Project’s Navajo Power Station.  Jerry drew deep inspiration from the quiet dignity and great humility of these patriots.  He would have been gratified to see them get the Congressional Gold Medal, a belated and too-small recognition for the great service they rendered our nation.

RIP, Alan Dale June.

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Atomic history, nuclear future

October 19, 2008

We’re going to see more nuclear power plants in the U.S., it’s a safe bet.  Both presidential candidates support developing alternatives to oil and coal.  Nuclear power is one of the alternatives.

John McCain kept repeating his comfort words, that ‘storage of wastes is not a problem.’ There is not a lot of evidence to support his claims.  With turmoil in financial markets, however, the nuclear power issue has gotten very little serious attention or scrutiny.  From the push to get compensation for radiation victims of atomic weapons and development in the U.S., I learned that the issue is not really whether wastes and other materials can be safely used and wastes stored. The issues are entirely issues of will.

Advantage to Obama, I think.  He’s not claiming that the storage problems are all solved.  A clear recognition of reality is good to have in a president.

Son Kenny sent a link to a history site, Damn Interesting, and it tells the story of the Techa River in the old Soviet Union — a place condemned for generations by the nuclear excesses of the past.

To make the story briefer, in their rush to produce nuclear weapons, the Soviets did nothing to protect Russia from radioactive waste products until it was much too late.  Efforts to reduce radioactive emissions, by storing them in huge underwater containers, resulted in massive explosions that released more radiation than Chernobyl (What?  You hadn’t heard of that, either?).

It’s a reminder that safety and security with peaceful uses of nuclear power depend on humans doing their part, and thinking through the problems before they arise.

Can we deal with radioactive wastes?  We probably have the technology.  Do we have the will? Ask yourself:  How many years has the U.S. studied Yuccan Mountain to make a case to convince Nevadans to handle the waste?  How many more decades will it take?

How is our history of dealing with nuclear contamination issues?  Not good.

Last spring SMU’s history department sponsored a colloquium on a power generation in the southwest, specifically with regard to coal and uranium mining on the Navajo Reservation.   We’ve been there before.

One of the photos used in one of the lectures, by Colleen O’Neill of Utah State, showed two Navajo miners outside a uranium mine during a previous uranium boom.  Neither one had a lick of protective equipment.  Underground uranium mining exposes miners to heave concentrations of radon gas, and if a miner is unprotected by breathing filters at least, there is a nearly 100% chance the miner will get fatal lung cancers.

Of the 150 Navajo uranium miners who worked at the uranium mine in Shiprock, New Mexico until 1970, 133 died of lung cancer or various forms of fibrosis by 1980 ([Ali, 2003] ).

Our Senate hearings on radiation compensation, in the 1970s, produced dozens of pages of testimony that Atomic Energy Commission officials understood the dangers, but did nothing to protect Navajo miners (or other miners, either).  It is unlikely that anyone depicted in those photos is alive today.

AP Photo  (borrowed from ehponline.org)

"Mine memory - Navajo miners work the Kerr-McGee uranium mine, 7 May 1953. Today, uranium from unremediated abandoned mines contaminates nearby water supplies. image: AP Photo" (borrowed from ehponline.org) This photo is very close to the one used by Prof. O'Neill. It may have been taken at nearly the same time. If you know of any survivors from this photo, please advise.

At a refining facility on the Navajo Reservation, highly radioactive wastewater was stored behind an inadequate earthen dam.  The dam broke, and the wastes flowed through a town and into local rivers.  Contamination was extensive.

Attempts to collect for the injuries to Navajo miners and their families were thrown out of court in 1980, on the grounds that the injuries were covered under workers compensation rules (where injury compensation was also denied, generally).

Navajos organized to protest the power plant. One wonders whether they can win it.

Sen. McCain seems cock sure that radioactive wastes won’t kill thousands of Americans in the future as they have in the past.  The uranium mining and uranium tailings issues occurred in Arizona, the state McCain represents.  Does he know?

We regard ourselves in the U.S. as generally morally superior to “those godless communists.”  Can we demonstrate moral superiority with regard to development of peacetime nuclear power, taking rational steps to protect citizens and others, and rationally, quickly and fairly compensating anyone who is injured?

That hasn’t happened yet.

When [uranium] mining [on the Navajo Reservation] ceased in the late 1970’s, mining companies walked away from the mines without sealing the tunnel openings, filling the gaping pits, sometimes hundreds of feet deep, or removing the piles of radioactive uranium ore and mine waste. Over 1,000 of these unsealed tunnels, unsealed pits and radioactive waste piles still remain on the Navajo reservation today, with Navajo families living within a hundred feet of the mine sites. The Navajo graze their livestock here, and have used radioactive mine tailings to build their homes. Navajo children play in the mines, and uranium mine tailings have turned up in school playgrounds (103rd Congress, 1994 ).

Think of the story of Techa River as a warning.

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