Last week, Canadian Politician and Quebec Liberal MP Marc Miller, the first Canadian politician to speak Mohawk in the Canadian House of Parliament, stopped at the home of the last living Mohawk code talker Levi Oakes to present him with a medal to honor his service as a code talker. He also read Oakes a letter of thanks in the Mohawk language.
Miller was traveling to speak with tribal representatives about cannabis and wished to pay Oakes the visit. Miller is from the Montreal community and works in the House of Commons serving Montreal and the surrounding areas.
When at the home of Oakes, Miller presented the code talker with a symbolic medal to recognize his efforts. Miller also read a letter in the Mohawk language.
The only press on scene was Kaniehtonkie from the Indian Times, who wrote an article describing the meeting between Miller and Oakes, described the moment Miller read the letter as special. It “made Levi’s eyes light up, showing he understood every word Miller said.”
Miller told the Indian Times: “It was a personal honor to meet Levi Oakes. The role of the Code Talkers in WWII has long been an interest of mine and I wanted the Government of Canada to recognize Mr. Oakes. The spirit and success of the Code Talkers was hidden for so long.”
“Even before entering politics I have always been fascinated with languages, learning Swedish as an adult, but there is such richness to Mohawk and it is very difficult to learn,” he said.
In Akwesasne today, I had the immense pleasure to recognize a hero in Levi Oakes, last remaining Mohawk Code Talker. A secret even to his family until very recently, Levi’s use of Kanien’kéha code during WWII saved lives and remained unbroken by the enemy. #cdnpoli @HarjitSajjan pic.twitter.com/sBEEQG6ixY
— Marc Miller (@MarcMillerVM) May 9, 2018
During the meeting, Oakes surprised everyone in the room and revealed he had recently received an official letter from the U. S. Department of Defense stating he was free to share what actually happened in WWII.
“Before that, no one, including his family, had any idea the role he had during the war,” said the Indian Times.
When Miller finished reading his letter, Oakes responded in Mohawk with Tsi nika’shátste, meaning “It is so strong,” a reference to the strength of the Mohawk language.
Video of the meeting by the Indian Times.
« Tsi nika’shátste » (Kanien’kéha) « it’s so strong » was Levi’s answer to the last part of the note I read which translates to « You showed them how strong the language is ». #kanienkeha #mohawk @SenSincmurr #codetalker https://t.co/S181sDJQle
— Marc Miller (@MarcMillerVM) May 12, 2018
In January of 2017, the Rochester Knighthawks professional lacrosse team honored the last Oakes, 92, Kanien’keha:ka (Mohawk) in front of a crowd of 6,000 at the Blue Cross Arena in Rochester, NY.
Oakes served as a code talker in the South Pacific during WWII and was awarded the Silver Star for his service. The silver star is the third-highest military award for valor given for showing gallantry in action against an enemy of the United States.
After the war, Oakes worked for 30 years as an ironworker in Buffalo, NY and later worked in the highway department at the Mohawk territory in Akwesasne, New York before retiring.