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Arizona declares state holiday to honor Native code talkers

March 29, 2021 GMT

PHOENIX (AP) — Arizona has a new state holiday.

Gov. Doug Ducey signed a bill Monday to honor Native Americans who used their language to transmit coded messages during World War II.

Arizona has recognized code talkers by proclamation and through legislation for years. The bill sponsored by state Sen. Jamescita Peshlakai makes Aug. 14 a state holiday. It will be observed on a Sunday when state offices already are closed.

While hundreds of Navajos were recruited as code talkers, about a dozen Hopis and members of other tribes also covertly sent wartime messages.

Peshlakai, who is Navajo, said it’s important that Arizonans remember their service and bravery. Less than a handful of Navajo Code Talkers are still alive.

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The Navajo Nation celebrates Aug. 14 as a tribal holiday, marking the date Japan announced it would surrender to the Allied forces. The annual ceremony typically is held in person but was moved online last year because of the coronavirus pandemic.