Close to 700 delegates, veterans and members of Akwesasne gathered in the sweltering heat Saturday for a historic ceremony on the American side of the Mohawk Territory.

 They came to honour 24 Akwesasne Mohawk Code talkers. Levi Oakes, 92, is the sole surviving code talker from Akwesasne who fought in the second world war.

“I enlisted at the age of 18, and from there I went to Louisiana to be trained,” said Oakes. Oakes served in New Guinea and the Philippines. Code talkers used their language to communicate between allied troops. Enemy forces couldn’t decipher the language.

According to New York Congress woman, Elsie Stefanik, the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe is one of 33 American Indian tribes being recognized for using their language to send coded messages.

“I can’t think of a more fitting time to bestow this congressional medal, then on the 150th anniversary of memorial day, said Stefanik.”

She said, for far too long their sacrifice went unnoticed, and they were instructed not to speak of their roles in the military campaigns. Oakes said he kept his role in the war from his seven children, until five years ago. His son Wally said he’s proud of his father’s accomplishments.

“We weren’t sure when he would get a medal, we were just hoping before he left this earth,” he said. District Chief, Timothy Thompson said today’s ceremony is the result of a long process that began in 2011, it’s long overdue.

“It’s about time that our elders and our families get recognized for their valiant efforts to secure peace, he said.”

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