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Indian code talkers to get Congressional Gold Medal

South Dakota’s congressional delegation this week announced that American Indian code talkers from eight of South Dakota’s tribes will be recognized for their dedicated and valorous service during World War I and World War II at a gold medal ceremony to be held at the U.S. Capitol on Nov. 20.

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The Congressional Gold Medal award is among the highest honors of appreciation and recognition bestowed on an individual, institution or event by Congress. In total, 33 tribes from around the country will be recognized, and more than 200 silver medals will be presented to families of code talkers. Sen. John Thune and Tim Johnson were cosponsors of the Senate version of The Code Talkers Recognition Act of 2008(H.R. 4544), which was signed into law in October 2008 and directed the issuance of medals to honor the contributions of Indian code talkers during World War I and World War II.

The American military’s use of Native American code talkers dates to October 1918. The code talkers were used throughout both the European and Pacific theaters during World War II. Because the communications used by the code talkers were based on native languages and not mathematical progressions or machine-based code, enemy forces were unable to exploit Allied exchanges for the length of the war.