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14th Annual Native Symposium Shares History and Culture

This November, the 14th annual Native Symposium was held over a two week span here at Weber State University. The symposium began on Nov. 4th with an opportunity learn more about the Navajo language and its history, as the language almost became a “dead language” before being taught again to children.

“The first symposium was held in February 2006 and was to create a dialogue and a voice for the Native American Community here, and to really engage with different topics,” said Tashina Barber, a multicultural counselor here at Weber State, and adviser to the American Indian Council.

The symposium has been a way for Native American culture to be showcased here at Weber State and to be shared with the community here. There is a Native American student community here, as there are about 120 students that identify as Native American as well as the student-run organization that is the American Indian Council.

“Dr. Forrest Crawford spearheaded and established the Native Symposium. He also helped establish the American Indian Council here on campus, and I advise that group and I’ve been able to be a part of the symposium since 2015, we definitely feel supported here at Weber,” said Barber.

The following day, keynote speaker Peter MacDonald, a Marine and Navajo Code Talker who served during World War II, shared his experience in the Wildcat Theater.

“His keynote was great, and I feel the community really showed up for the event.” said Barber.

One of the concluding events was held in the Wildcat Theater last Thursday Nov. 14. The documentary film “True Whispers: The Story of the Navajo Code Talkers” was screened and featured the Navajo code talkers and their great and extraordinary contribution to the United States during World War II.

The film documented how many of the Navajo men that would become code talkers, were taken at a young age from their homes and families and sent off to boarding schools designed to “civilize” them and strip them of their culture and native language.

The code talkers would be tasked with transmitting codes in the Pacific, as they were instrumental in places where fighting was fierce agains the Japanese such Guadalcanal and Iwo Jima.

Upon returning home the code talkers did not get the recognition they deserved, as the government kept the code talkers a secret until twenty-five years later when it was declassified.

George W. Bush would later honor the last five remaining Navajo code talkers, John Brown, Chester Nez, Lloyd Oliver, Allen Dale June, and Joe Palmer and awarding them all Congressional Gold Medals.

The President of the Navajo Nation at the time Kelsey Begaye said, “This award is long overdue, from this day forward we will continue to remember the courage and the sacrifice of the Navajo Code Talkers, today we salute you for your bravery and your courage. You are our true American heroes.”

“Those who came got to hear a little more of the history, and see how they have been a symbol of unity,” said Barber of the film screening.-

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