THe Navajo Language: a Blessing in Disguise Back                                                                                                           Home                                                                                                       



Jack Franicevich and Andrew Stevenson

Junior Group Division


We are 7th-graders who attend two different schools. Andrew visited the Sonoma County National History Day competition in 2004 and was interested in participating in the competition this year. He invited Jack to work with him on the project, and we agreed to collaborate.

We chose the Navajo Code Talkers as a topic for our project because we knew that they were part of World War II, and that war has been interesting to us for a long time.  We’ve also been interested in codes and deciphering since we were very young. We thought it would be neat to learn about one code that was really essential in history.
After we chose our topic, we decided to create a website. Andrew had been doing Power Point projects for several years in school, and he is interested in the possibility of creating websites professionally, so this was a good way to begin learning how to work with website programs.

To begin our research, we borrowed books from the public library. We also visited Sonoma State University’s Charles Schulz Library, where we were able to get lots of information about the Navajo. At the SSU library we used the EBSCO periodical search to find magazine articles. We also used the “Snoopy” book catalog to get books on the topic.
We also did a lot of research on the Internet, where we found historical photos, maps, links, and sound bytes that allowed us to hear individuals speaking the Navajo language.

For a primary source, Jack was able to interview Code Talker Keith Morrison Little. Jack had heard from a friend who lives in Arizona that some Code Talkers had come to talk at their school, and the friend was able to connect us with Mr. Little. We looked forward to this interview because we thought we would get information that was not distorted in any way, such as you might find in a book. We wanted to hear a first-hand account besides just reading a story written by someone else.

Andrew and his family went to Arizona to get information about the code talkers. In Arizona, Andrew went to the Heard Museum, interviewed Joe Kellwood with the help of the Arizona Commission of Indian Affairs and took pictures of monuments dedicated to the code talkers. Andrew also interviewed Samuel “Jessie” Smith by e-mail with the help of the Navajo Code Talkers Association.

To build our website, we chose the program Mozilla Composer, a free WYSIWYG (“what you see is what you get”) web editor. We met to choose all the topics we wanted to cover in our project, and then we divided up the topics according to our individual interests. We individually composed our Word documents and e-mailed each other completed documents. We met about once a week to discuss our progress.  We built our own web pages, and we agreed upon the layout of the website and individual page format. As the project came to a close, we worked out all the final details.

Our research was for us the key to our understanding of both World War II and Navajo history. Learning about the Navajo Code helped us appreciate the covert communications required on the battlefield. The Navajo Code is an inspiring example of bilingual communication in history. 
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