Akwesasne veteran, last Mohawk Code Talker, Levi Oakes passes away

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By Nick Seebruch
Akwesasne veteran, last Mohawk Code Talker, Levi Oakes passes away
Levi Oakes (left) with Cornwall City Councillor Syd Gardiner at the November 2018 Veterans Dinner in Cornwall at the Legion (Shawna O'Neill/ Seaway News).

AKWESASNE, Ontario – The last living Mohawk Code Talker from World War II Levi Oakes of Akwesasne passed away on Tuesday, May 28. He was 94-years-old.

Born in Akwesasne, Levi Oakes and other World War II Code Talkers used their native languages to help keep Allied communications secret from Axis forces.

“Levi was one of Akwesasne’s most respected elders and the remaining survivor of the World War II Mohawk Code Talkers,” reads a Mohawk Council of Akwesasne (MCA) tribute to Oakes on Facebook. “While stationed in Louisiana, Levi and other indigenous soldiers received training as code talkers using their traditional first languages. Levi was a man who utilized his language unselfishly to preserve the freedoms bestowed upon us today.”

Oakes served in the South Pacific during the war, enlisting in the U.S. military at the age of 18. He was awarded with the Silver Star for gallantry in action against the enemy and was also awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

After the war, Oakes worked as an ironworker in Buffalo, NY before moving on to work for the Roads Department with the MCA until his retirement.

In 2018, Oakes was recognized by the Assembly of First Nations and Canada’s House of Commons for his service to the U.S. and Canada during World War II, after which, he had a private meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Oakes was the first person invited to sign the MCA Book of Recognition called Ionkwakwe’:nion, or “We Accomplished It.”

“Levi Oakes was an inspiration to many, was truly a treasured Akwesasronon, and will forever be remembered as a hero, and a family man,” reads the MCA’s tribute to Oakes. “The Mohawk Council of Akwesasne extends sincere condolences to his family, friends and to the community of Akwesasne for this loss. To honour Mr. Oakes, the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne will be flying all flags at half-mast.”

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