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In the autumn of 1918, US troops were involved in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive on the Western Front. It was one of the largest frontline commitments of American soldiers in WW1, but communications in the field were compromised. The Germans had successfully tapped telephone lines, were deciphering codes and repeatedly capturing runners sent out to deliver messages directly.
“It was a huge problem and they couldn’t figure out a way around it,” says Matt Reed, curator of American Indian Collections at the Oklahoma History Center, the headquarters of the Oklahoma Historical Society.
The solution was stumbled upon by chance, an overheard conversation between two Choctaw soldiers in the 142nd Infantry Regiment. The pair were chatting in camp when a captain walked by and asked what language they were speaking. Realising the potential for communication, he then asked if there were other speakers among the troops. The men knew of Choctaw soldiers at company headquarters. Using a field telephone the captain got the men to deliver a message in their native tongue which their colleagues quickly translated back into English. The Choctaw Telephone Squad was born and so was code talking. . . .
But at the same time,the Choctaw language was under pressure back in the US. It was a time of cultural assimilation. Government attempts to “civilise” American Indians involved putting their children in state-run boarding schools, where they were often severely punished for speaking in their native tongue.
“You had this crazy situation where the Choctaw language was being used as a formidable weapon of war, yet back home children were being beaten at school for using it,” says Judy Allen, senior executive officer of tribal relations with the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. “The two soldiers who were overheard by the officer probably thought they were in trouble rather than about to provide the answer to the army’s communication problems.”
Here is the opinion in In re A.G. (Cal. App. Dist. 1):
Father’s sole contention is that the order terminating his parental rights as to A.G. must be reversed because the Agency did not provide notice as required under ICWA. Although the Agency strenuously contested this appeal, it does not dispute that it failed to comply with ICWA’s inquiry and notice requirements. Instead, it raises a battery of contentions that arise out of a theory that Father has “renounced” his paternal rights and worked a fraud on the family and juvenile courts. The Agency also says the appeal is barred by res judicata and, in any event, that reversal is not required because its ICWA violations were not prejudicial. These arguments are long on novelty, but short on merit. We are reluctant to impose further delay before this young child may finally gain permanence and stability in an adoptive family. Unfortunately, the Agency’s unexplained failure to follow the law leaves us with no choice. We therefore order a limited reversal and require the Agency to fulfill its ICWA-related duties, as it should have done long ago.
The California Court of Appeals (2nd District) affirmed the termination of parental rights over a parent’s claim that the child was either Cherokee or Choctaw and the state had not provided sufficient notice to those tribes. Here is the opinion — In re K.M.