New York State’s Mohawk Code Talkers

During World War II American Indians from 33 tribal groups were recruited by the United States Army as Code Talkers. These soldiers sent send secret messages in codes based on their native languages so that enemy forces could not understand communications between American troops. The word for “turtle” might be used for tank.

The best known Code Talkers were members of the Navajo Nation from the Southwestern United States. There were also Mohawk Code Talkers from the St. Regis reservation in New York State. Mohawk Code Talkers served in New Guinea, the Philippines and the South Pacific. In 2008 Congress passed the Code Talker Recognition Act to commemorate the achievements of all of the Code Talkers.

The St. Regis reservation is known in the Mohawk language as Akwesasne. It is located along both the American and Canadian sides of the St. Lawrence River. Most of Akwesasne and the area with the largest population are located in New York. The Mohawk Nation is one of the Six Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy. They are the “People of the Flint.” The Iroquois Confederacy includes the Cayuga, Oneida, Onondaga, Seneca, and Tuscarora Nations.

Kanien’kéha, the Mohawk language, is a living language. Several Kanien’kéha words and phrases along with English translations are included below. There is an online Mohawk Dictionary at www.kanienkeha.net/ and a spelling and pronunciation guide at www.native-languages.org/mohawk_guide.htm. There is a video with Mohawk pronunciations at www.youtube.com/watch?v=nPRaVOd-UrQ.

Kanien’kéha word or phraseEnglish Translation
Oh nahò:ten iesá:iats?What is your name?
Tó: na’tesohseriià:kon?How old are you?
Sátien tánon tesatská:honSit down and eat
Orhen’kè:ne í:ieks / Énkie / Okara’snéha i:ieksBreakfast / Lunch / Dinner
Ahserí:ie tanon kenenio’kón:niSpaghetti and meat balls
Ka’serehkówa Ratórie’s Ka’serehkowa Iotórie’sTruck Driver (male) Truck Driver (female)
Shakorihonnién:ni Iakorihonnién:niTeacher (male) Teacher (female)
Skén:nen / Karihwakweniénhtshera /Kanoronhkwáhtshera / Atenró:seraPeace / Respect / Love / Friendship
Sekon / Ó:nenHello / Goodbye
Ista / Raké:niMother / Father

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