Hozho clearly was out of balance, which was psychologically devastating. WORLD WAR II The Navajo considered World War I to be a white man’s conflict and assumed a passive attitude; no more than perhaps a dozen indi- viduals served in the military during that war. In any event, the Navajo could not be drafted because they did not become U.S. citizens until a congressional act was passed in 1924. Early in World War II, many Navajo did not register for the draft because they distrusted the federal government; some people thought that registration had a connection to stock reduction. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, however, the people’s attitude changed, and most supported the war effort. By the end of the war about 3600 Navajo had served in the armed forces. About 15,000 others held war-related jobs locally and elsewhere. In 1945 the total Navajo population was about 59,000. The most famous Navajo during World War II were the approximately four hundred “Code Talkers” in the U.S. Marine Corps. A film about their achieve- ments, Windtalkers, appeared in 2002. Searching for a code that the Japanese could not easily decipher, the military turned to Navajo servicemen. The code was used in Pacific-area campaigns, largely to report the location of enemy ar- tillery and to direct fire at it from marine positions. The code itself consisted of isolated Navajo words; the first letter of each word was translated into English The Recent Past | 361 11_Oswalt_Ch11.qxd 9/19/08 10:28 PM Page 361
to spell out the message in English. In the assault on Iwo Jima, over eight hun- dred transmissions were made without error. The Japanese were never able to break the code, and the success of the Iwo Jima campaign was attributed in large part to the Code Talkers. (During World War II, the U.S. Army had Choctaw, Comanche, Hopi, and Lakota [Sioux] Code Talkers; during World War I Choctaw speakers had served the same purpose.) World War II impinged on Navajo life in other ways as well. The federal government reduced its presence and influence on the reservation, and stock reduction programs were not enforced. More important, after the war, return- ing veterans and civilian war workers who held jobs off the reservation were far better able to cope with the white man on Navajo terms. THE NATIVE AMERICAN CHURCH Navajo participation in the “peyote cult” began in the mid-1930s and crystallized in the Native American church (see also Chapter 2). Church success was a partial reaction to the BIA livestock reduction program and intensified hostility against whites. It appears that by 1972 from 40 to 60 percent of the 130,000 Navajo were church members. A church leader is termed a Roadman (Road Chief, Peyote Chief). An as- piring Roadman is trained by an established leader and begins to hold services when he considers himself capable. There is neither a formal creed nor uni- form rituals. The consumption of alcoholic beverages is prohibited. Church members further share a common belief with Christians about the same
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