News Release – Diné College Students Create Navajo Code Talker Ceremony Films

Diné College Students Create Navajo Code Talker Ceremony Films


August 14, 2020

TSAILE, Ariz. —The lives of the Navajo Code Talkers have constantly been shaped into stories we hear about on a daily basis. Nine of those stories were featured in a film ceremony Friday as part of Navajo Code Talkers Day.

The films were created by students from Diné College and Winona State University in Minnesota. The films were created under the Navajo Oral History project, an academic collaboration of the two institutions, which ran from 2009-2015. The project was led by Dr. Miranda Haskie, Diné College, Dr. Tom Grier, Winona State University, and Mr. Robbie Christiano, Winona State University.

“Congratulations to you and your students on your hard work,” Diné College President Charles M. Roessel said. “You make the Nations college proud. More importantly, you have safeguarded the personal history and Navajo history for generations. This is exactly what the founders hoped for and wanted for this college.”

During six years of active field work, students in the Navajo Oral History project made 27 documentary films about Navajo elders, including nine about the Navajo Code Talkers.

The Code Talkers were Navajo men recruited to the U.S. Marines during World War II who used their native language in a secret code that was never broken and helped end the war and save countless lives. Of the more than 400 Navajo Code Talkers that served during the war, the four remaining Navajo Code Talkers, each over age 90, are: Thomas Begay of Window Rock, Arizona; John Kinsel Sr. of Lukachukai, Arizona; Peter MacDonald Sr., of Tuba City, Arizona; and Samuel Sandoval of Shiprock, New Mexico.

In 1982, U.S. President Ronald Reagan declared Aug. 14 as National Navajo Code Talkers Day. The Code Talkers are honored each year on Navajo Code Talkers Day at the Navajo Nation capitol.

Note: Oral history is a method of conducting historical research through recorded interviews between a narrator with personal experience of historically significant events and a well-informed interviewer, with the goal of adding to the historical record.

Samuel Tso, from Lukachukai, Arizona
Students who created the Samuel Tso Film:
– From Diné College: Eli Francis
– From Winona State University: Brandi Hagen, Cory Hinz, Matt Wandzel

John Kinsel, Sr., from Lukachukai, Arizona
Students who created the John Kinsel Film:
– From Diné College: Marcus A. Lake, Revaline Nez
– From Winona State University: Michael Ruka, Jennifer Westman

Keith Little, from Crystal, New Mexico
Students who created the Keith Little Film:
– From Diné College: Jessica King, Shawn Tsosie
– From Winona State University: Robbie Christiano

Kee Etsicitty, from Chichiltah, New Mexico
Students who created the Kee Etsicitty Film:
– From Diné College: Robin McGee
– From Winona State University: Kelsey Foss, Samantha Luhmann, Stefani    Schmidt

Samuel Tom Holiday, from Kayenta, Arizona
Students who created the Samuel Tom Holiday Film:
– From Diné College: Kelsey Curtis, Christine Willie
– From Winona State University: Liam Krause, Rachel Rivers

Chester Nez, from Albuquerque, New Mexico – the last of the Original 29 Navajo Code Talkers
Students who created the Chester Nez Film:
– From Diné College: Kaitlyn Haskie, Marla Sandoval-Redhouse
– From Winona State University: Emily Gust, Kelly Kusilek, Elena Lavorato

Joe Vandever, from Haystack, New Mexico
Students who created the Joe Vandever Film:
– From Diné College: James McKenzie, Shawn Tsosie
– From Winona State University: Shannon Bolte, Joel Farber

Peter MacDonald, from Tuba City, Arizona
Students who created the Peter MacDonald Film:
– From Diné College: Debb Teller
– From Winona State University: Shiloh Gulbranson, Tom Hays, Jolene Kuisle

Bill Toledo, from Grants, New Mexico
Students who created the Bill Toledo Film:
– From Diné College: Kyle Brown, Stephanie Tsosie
– From Winona State University: Jacob Hilsabeck, Kacie Mann, Samantha Stetzer

Navajo Oral History:



Marie R. Etsitty Nez 
Vice President of External Affairs

George Joe, M.A., M.Ed, Director Of Marketing and Communications

Bernie DotsonPublic Relations Officer

Scott TomGraphic Design and Digital Media Specialist

Jazzmine D. MartinezMarketing Assistant

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