Code Talker Medals have been endorsed for six more Native American tribes.
Meeting in Washington July 24, the Citizens Coinage Advisory
Committee gave its support to designs that were backed by officials
from the six tribes.
On July 18, the Commission on Fine Arts approved recommendations
for the same medals. The CFA’s review tended to endorse the least
cluttered designs, not necessarily ones backed by tribal officials.
The designs for all six medals must be approved by Treasury
Secretary Jacob J. Lew before the medals can be struck.
In all, Defense Department officials have certified 32 tribes as
eligible for the medals that honor Native American service personnel
who served as wartime code talkers, using their native tongues to communicate.
The two review panels differed in the selection of designs for the
Pueblo of Acoma medal. The CCAC strongly backed the New Mexico tribe’s
choice of a medal showing a radioman carrying a rifle on a Pacific
Island, but the CFA endorsed a view of a seated soldier writing a message.
For the reverse, the CFA endorsed a design based on the Pueblo of
Acoma seal while the CCAC backed a design also based on the seal, but
showing woven tribal patterns and color schemes on the rim, requested
by the tribe.
Arizona’s Hopi Tribe won support from the CCAC for its favored
obverse showing two infantrymen with a B-24 bomber overhead. The CFA
selected another similar scene showing two soldiers also in a combat
position, but without rifles.
For the reverse, the CFA backed a Hopi tribal seal that it
described as “the simplest design” of three submitted. The CCAC
strongly supported a design that the tribe endorsed, in part because
it placed “World War II” near the bottom rim.
The Oneida Nation of Wisconsin won backing from both panels for
its favorite obverse, which features a rifleman against a drawing of
eagle feathers and the wording “Oneida Nation Warriors.”
The CFA urged the eagle feathers be removed from the medal “as a
confusing design element.” In contrast, the CCAC liked the feathers
and strongly endorsed the design.
The panels split over how the Oneida tribal seal should be
depicted on the reverse. The CCAC accepted the tribal recommendation
but called for an oval placed around animal tracks to be removed from
the design. The CFA endorsed a similar design, also urging the oval be removed.
Oklahoma’s Ponca Tribe won backing from both panels for an obverse
featuring the tribe’s Chief White Eagle. Both urged that the circular
radio waves be removed from the design and that a helmeted
communications man be moved away from the chief’s chin.
Only one design was submitted for the reverse tribal seal and it
was praised by the CFA staff as “a clear and simple design.”
Arizona’s Tonto Apache Tribe’s requested obverse was backed by
both panels. The CFA liked the image of a radioman moving into combat
“due to the sense of movement” and the use of a second figure in the background.
The proposed reverse created considerable comment by CCAC members
who questioned whether the tribe wanted to place the wording “World
War II” over a cross that was the tribal seal. That was the tribe’s
stated preference, but both panels endorsed a design that placed the
wording on the rim of the medal.
The CCAC balloting gave their choice 23 points out of a possible
30 points and 22 points to the tribe’s favored reverse.
The reviewers split over the obverse of the White Mountain Apache
Tribe medal. The CCAC strongly endorsed the Arizona tribe’s request
for a medal showing two code talkers behind sandbags.
The CFA opted for a design showing a single code talker in the
foreground and a silhouetted soldier in the background. Both review
groups requested Mint artists to pay greater attention to the leg of
the soldier in the foreground.
Only one White Mountain Apache reverse design, showing a tribal
seal, was submitted to the reviewers, and it was approved by both
panels. The CFA urged steps “to improve the clarity of this design.”
Defense officials have yet to review the designs, and CCAC members
were told that further revisions might be made after that review and
consultations with the tribes. ■