“Anumpa Warrior: Choctaw Warriors of World War I,” by Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer, RockHaven Publishing, 2018, paperback, 317 pages, $15.99
Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer, a Choctaw storyteller and writer, living in Texas, tells the events few of whom in the United States know about during World War I in France in 1918.
Developed in the trenches while the Choctaw warriors were serving as runners, passing messages from officer centers throughout the areas where they were fighting Germans, officers learned that the enemy was hacking into communication lines. Knowing when and where strikes were planned to hit German lines, they struck first, killing hundreds of American and Canadian soldiers.
Quite by accident, one of the officers overheard five Choctaw soldiers speaking in their native language. That incident was pivotal in shorting the war, arresting hundreds of German prisoners and saving thousands of American and Canadian lives. To these brave and silent heroes, France awarded to the Code Talkers the highest military awards their country could bestow on a soldier.
Following the Trail of Tears, the relocation of Native American peoples, in school tribes were forbidden to speak their native tongues in school or in public, breaching that order was punished by corporeal punishment, much of which many were brutal.
The Choctaw Nation was a peaceful tribe who lived mostly in the Mississippi Valley. The walk to the Indian Territory of Oklahoma, and forcing young children to leave their families to become Americanized, didn’t change the basic nature despite the hardships endured.
When the U.S. entered the Great War in 1917, young men from the tribe were among the first to volunteer to prove that they were Americans, even before they were granted full American citizenship; they fought fearlessly for that cause alongside the French.
Choctaw Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer researched materials based on these achievements, incorporating the tribe’s history, interviewing relatives. The result is a historical novel, detailed in every aspect in “Anumpa Warrior: Choctaw Code Talkers of World War I.” The author brings readers to the action of these American heroes.