Award Joseph Oklahombi the Medal of Honor Posthumously
In 1918, at the tender age of 26, a young First Nations (Choctaw) man named Joseph Oklahombi served in the same theater of war as Sgt. Alvin York. Despite not being able to speak English or vote due to his heritage, he demonstrated unparalleled bravery and heroism on the battlefield. His exploits mirrored those of Sgt. York's, occurring only a few days apart from each other.
Unable to speak English, Joseph decided that he should “speak the language of warfare in fighting for his country.” Little did he know that his native language would become an invaluable tool to help the United States defeat Germany.
The Choctaw were the very first "Code Talkers" and Joseph was one of the first. Joseph served in the Thirty-Sixth Infantry Division's Company D, First Battalion, 141st Regiment, Seventy-First Brigade stationed in France during WWI. One day while he was conversing with other Choctaws, Colonel A.W. Bloor realized that he was unable to understand what the Indians were saying. He deducted that since he could not understand their conversations, neither could the Germans. Working with the Choctaw soldiers, Bloor put together a code that substituted the Choctaw language in place of the code used by the military. Joseph and 18 other native born Choctaws became known as the original "Code Talkers."
However, Joseph Oklahombi contributed much more than merely the translation of correspondence. On October 8, 1918, at St. Etienne, France, during the fierce Meuse-Argonne campaign, with the assistance of twenty-three other soldiers, Oklahombi attacked German machine gun nests and captured many of the enemy. According to the official report, Joseph, “under the most violent barrage” pushed through over 200 yards of “barbed wire entanglements, rushed on machine gun nests, capturing 171 prisoners.” Joseph single handedly kept these prisoners at bay “for three long hours until others in the company arrived.” And even though the German fortification contained over “fifty machine guns and trench mortars,” led by the brave “man-killer,” the Choctaw Indian squad seized the weaponry, “turned the captured guns on the enemy,” and held their position for “four days in spite of a continued barrage of large projectiles and gas shells.” Brave Joseph “crossed no man’s land many times to get information and assist wounded comrades.” Based on a statement issued by French Marshal Petain, Oklahombi killed seventy-nine German soldiers, and aided by his fellow Choctaws took care of those that were wounded.
Because of his gallant efforts, General John J. Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) in Europe during World War I, awarded him the Silver Star to be worn on the Victory Ribbon, while Marshal Petain bestowed upon him the Croix de Guerre, one of France's highest honors for bravery. The chivalry that this full blood Native American displayed overseas fulfilled a prophecy made by Pushmataha, a Choctaw chief who passed way in 1827, “that the Choctaw ‘War Cry’ would be heard in many foreign lands.”
Joseph Oklahombi's actions during World War I were nothing short of extraordinary and deserving recognition with the Medal of Honor - America's highest military honor for acts of valor above and beyond the call of duty. Yet, despite his heroic deeds that saved countless lives, he was never awarded this prestigious medal.
This petition seeks justice for Joseph Oklahombi and recognition for his exceptional service to our country during one its most challenging times. It is time we honor him posthumously with the Medal Of Honor that he rightfully deserves.
Join us in righting this historical oversight by signing this petition today! Let us collectively ensure that Joseph Oklahombi’s bravery is acknowledged appropriately by our nation!
In loving memory of my dear friend Robert "Tree" Cody, who departed from this world on September 14, 2023, at the age of 72. Standing tall at almost 6' 10", Tree was a giant not just in stature but also in heart and talent. His voice, in my opinion, resonated as one of the greatest in Indian Country, and his flute playing secured him a spot among the top 5 First Nations flute players. Additionally, Tree was a mesmerizing Fancy Dancer, showcasing his multifaceted brilliance.
Our paths first crossed 22 years ago at the 3rd Native American Music Awards, where an instant connection blossomed into a lasting friendship. It was my privilege to present Tree and Rueben Romero with the Native American Music Award for their exceptional album, "Native Flamenco."
Even at 6' 4" in boots, looking up at Tree was always a joy. Over the years, our sporadic conversations about music and Indian Country became cherished moments. In the past 7 weeks, an undeniable urge to reconnect with Tree persisted, and the realization of his passing hit me profoundly a couple of days ago.
My Brother Robert Tree Cody, your absence leaves a void that cannot be filled. Every time your beautiful music graces our ears, we will be reminded of your extraordinary talent and the void you've left behind. The photos captured during the Third Annual Native American Music Awards in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in February 2001, stand as timeless mementos of the day our paths first crossed.
Rest in peace, dear Tree. Your legacy lives on in our hearts and the melodies you shared with the world!
Robert Tree Cody was the adopted son of the actor Iron Eyes Cody and Cody's wife Bertha Parker, an Assistant in Archaeology at Southwest Museum of the American Indian. Iron Eyes and Bertha adopted Robert and his brother Arthur, who served in the United States Marine Corps during the Vietnam War and died as a result of exposure to Agent Orange. The brothers are of Dakota and Maricopa heritage. Robert was an enrolled member of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community. In the Maricopa language, his traditional name was Oou Kas Mah Quet, meaning "Thunder Bear".
Formerly of Big Bear, California, he resided in Santa Ana Pueblo, New Mexico with his wife, Rachel. His nickname, "Tree," came from his height: he was six feet nine and a half inches tall. In 2009, Robert was interviewed about his father in the Canadian documentary Reel Injun.
Robert Cody played the Native American flute, had released eleven albums with Canyon Records and toured throughout the Americas, Europe, and East Asia. He performed the traditional carved wooden flute on several tracks of The Rippingtons' 1999 album Topaz. Cody was a featured flautist in the tenth episode of the PBS series Reading Rainbow, entitled "The Gift of the Sacred Dog" (based on the book by Paul Goble). It was filmed at Montana's Crow Agency reservation on June 17, 1983. He performed with Xavier Quijas Yxayotl (Huichol) from Guadalajara for the 2000 new age album Crossroads. He also was on the 5th and 6th season of Longmire. In episode 5, he was one of the singers in the sweat lodge scene.
During the 1950s and '60s and '70s, Cody travelled the pow-wow circuit extensively as a dancer. In November of 2022, Robert Tree Cody was honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Native American Music Awards. Due to failing health, he was unable to attend.
Tree was previously a multiple award winner of the Native American Music Awards for his albums; "Native Flamenco" featuring Tony Redhouse and Ruben Romero, "Maze" released in 2002, "Crossroads" with Xavier Quijas Yxayotl as well as for a collaboration with Taste of Honey's Janice Marie Johnson on her recording "Until The Eagle Falls." He was also nominated for a Grammy at the 49th Annual Grammy Awards for Best Native American Music Album for "Heart of the Wind" featuring Will Clipman.