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Civil War Sesquicentennial
Switzerland county woman helps honor a group of Native-American war heroes known as the CODE TALKERS
Monday, December 23, 2013 10:00 AM
Donna Weaver of Switzerland County shows the medals she designed that will honor a group of Native-American war heroes known as the Code Talkers. (Vevay Newspapers photos)
A Switzerland County woman has played an important role in honoring a group of men that performed a critical service in America's wars.
Code Talkers were the people who used different languages as a means of secret communication during wartime. Most of the Code Talkers were Native Americans.
The U.S. government is honoring those men, and the tribes they represent, with the Congressional Gold Medal.
Switzerland County's Donna Weaver, a former employee of the U.S. Mint, has had a role in the project.
Weaver is now a member of the Mint's Artistic Infusion Program, a group of independent designers and artists who contract with the Mint.
There are 33 Native American tribes honored with the Congressional Gold Medal, and at the official ceremony in November at Emancipation Hall in the U.S. Capitol, 25 of those tribes were presented with their medals.
Weaver's designs honor the Acoma, Oneida, Lakota, Cherokee, Apache and Menominee tribes.
"The Mint has been working on this project for about two years, at least a good year and a half," Weaver said. "One of the biggest problems that they had was locating all of the tribes who actually had code talkers, because they were not just in the second World War, and were not just Navajo. Navajo we hear about, and Navajo already had a code talkers medal in around 2003."
Weaver said each tribe was contacted to learn what they wanted to have inscribed on the medal.
"They needed to have what their tribal symbols were, because that's important...," she said.
Weaver said about 600 people attended the ceremony.
"There were many Indians there in their native dress, and they really looked good," Weaver said. "Speaker Boehner spoke and Harry Reid spoke and Nancy Pelosi, all of the leaders from the House and the Senate spoke."
Weaver said that not all of the medals were available at the ceremony because some of the tribes were still gathering the information and tribal symbols for their medals.
Each of the tribes received a gold medal worth approximately $35,000. Surviving Code Talkers, along with the families of those who are deceased, received a silver medal.
Weaver did the design for the medals, while artists at the U.S. Mint did the sculpting.
"Unfortunately I didn't get to do any of the sculpting, because I would have loved to have sculpted one of those things," she said.
"I probably submitted four or five designs, and everybody who is in-house possibly submitted a design, and there are six or eight people in-house. They would have also gone through the AIP program, which I'm in. The Mint is initially looking at 30-35 designs."
Weaver said that once designs are chosen, they are presented to various committees, including the Commission on Fine Arts and the Citizens Coin Advisory Commission, They then are subjected to recommendations. The designs are also shown to the stakeholders, in this case the tribes themselves.
Each of the medals carries Weaver's initials as the designer, as well as the initials of the sculptor.
The medals are correct in every detail. Weaver said that every detail, including the type of radio depicted and the rifle that the soldier is carrying, and the cartridge belts worn by the soldier, is carefully gone over by the Department of Defense.
"There's a lot of little things to go over," she said, "But they like it to be correct."
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