Bridge Named for WWI Choctaw Code Talker
Photo by Deidre Elrod/Choctaw Nation
They unveiled the sign at the dedication ceremony for the Joseph Oklahombi World War I Code Talker Bridge in McCurtain County. The 23 Choctaw Code Talkers of World War I and World War II are being recognized in their home counties by the Choctaw Code Talkers Association, the Choctaw Nation and the State of Oklahoma.
WRIGHT CITY – The Choctaw Nation made history April 19 with the dedication of the Joseph Oklahombi World War I Code Talker Bridge in McCurtain County.
The dedication is the first of 23 bridges named after the 19 Choctaw Code Talkers from World War I and four from World War II.
“This is the biggest bridge undertaking in the history of the Oklahoma Department of Transportation,” said Nuchi Nashoba, president of the Choctaw Code Talkers Association.
For two years the association has worked closely with ODOT, the Oklahoma Legislature, and the Choctaw Nation to complete this effort to honor those American soldiers who changed the course of the wars by using their Native language to communicate on the front lines. Choctaws were the first to use their spoken words over the radio in combat in World War I.
“This is to keep our history alive and to remind people of the sacrifices they made for our freedom,” said Chief Gary Batton.
The ceremony began Thursday morning at the Choctaw Nation Community Center in Wright City. An estimated 300 people were in attendance, including descendants of the heroic veterans. Immediately after the ceremony at the center, a caravan of vehicles traveled to a sign unveiling at Horse Head Creek. The bridge location is where State Highway 98 crosses over the creek, 1.4 miles east of Wright City.
Among those attending the event were the Choctaw Tribal Council, tribal members, local city and county and state officials.
Both Chief Batton and Nashoba, who has recently read a portion of Dr. William C. Meadows’ 435-page manuscript documenting the Choctaw Code Talkers, took note of a story about Oklahombi. She said, “In 1935, movie producers wanted to make a documentary about Joseph Oklahombi’s exploits, but that meant going to California and Joseph did not want to leave Oklahoma.” His wife Agnes said he had to stay home and “fish for suckers” in Horse Head Creek. Oklahombi told his wife, “If they can move the creek to Hollywood, I’ll go.”
Two things touched Nashoba’s spiritual side as she prepared for the ceremony.
“No one knew this story, and yet the bridge that ODOT selected is over the very creek that meant so much to Joseph,” she said. “Also, when we started work on the bridge project, there were delays and so many meetings, and though not planned, it all came together on the 100th anniversary of the Choctaw Code Talkers formation.”
Bridges receiving new names are in the counties where the Code Talkers called home. The Joseph Oklahombi bridge dedication is a symbolic event for all of the bridges. They have already erected signs for the four named after World War II Code Talkers.
In addition to Joseph Oklahombi, the Choctaw Code Talkers included Solomon Louis, Mitchell Bobb, Ben Carterby, Robert Taylor, Jeff Nelson, Pete Maytubby, James Edwards, Calvin Wilson, Albert Billy, Victor Brown, Tobias Frazier, Benjamin Hampton, Walter Veach, Benjamin Colbert, George Davenport, Joseph Davenport, Noel Johnson and Otis Leader. The Choctaw Code Talkers of World War II were Schlicht Billy, Andrew Perry, Davis Pickens and Forreston Baker.
All of the others should be in place by the end of August of this year. Photographic documentation is taking place for each site, Nashoba said.