The Code TalkersDuring the Second World War, the U.S. government, in search of a simple means of encrypting voice communications in the Pacific, recruited the services of some 450 Navajo Indians. Using their native language and simple encryption devices, these Native Americans performed an invaluable service to the war effort. Japanese intelligence was never able to break their code. These individuals were called by their people Code Talkers. Two of these Code Talkers went on to be come well-known and much admired painters.
Narcisco "Ciso'' Platero Abeyta and Carl Gorman both achieve considerable reputation in the Southwest for their visual exploration of the Navajo culture. Carl Gorman was the father of currently one of the best-known painters in the region, R. C. Gorman sculpted a monument to the Code Talkers. During and after the war, Ciso Abeyta suffered what was then known as "shell shock". He began his studies in art at the Santa Fe Indian School, and later graduated from the University of New Mexico. Though he studied under modernist painter Raymond Johnson, he was unable to create much on his own until after more than ten years of therapy. Most of his work was done in the 1960s and 70s.
Working mostly in watercolour, Abeyta's paintings dealt primarily with Navajo mythology and myths involving the creation. His work can not only be seen in various Sante Fe museums such as the Museum of New Mexico and the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian, but also in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, and the Museum of the American Indian in New York. Carl Gorman died in February of this year, while his friend and fellow Code Talker, Narcisco Abeyta passed away on June 22. He was 79.
Contributed by Lane, Jim
26 June 1998