CARL GORMAN [Kin-yah-onny beyeh -
"Son of Towering House People"]
NAVAJO CODE TALKER
MY FAVORABLE IMPRESSIONS OF WINDTALKERS [HUNTER GRAY]
From: Doris A. Paul, The Navajo Code Talkers [Philadelphia: Dorrance & Co., 1973] Page 102. Carl gave this book to me as a gift.
Hunter [Hunter Bear] [Formerly John R. Salter, Jr.]
MY FAVORABLE IMPRESSIONS OF WINDTALKERS [HUNTER GRAY JUNE 15, 2002]
These are my basic impressions set forth
soon after I saw Windtalkers a few
hours ago. They do not comprise a film review nor are they even a
conventional outline of plot and resolution. For those, and much more, I
strongly recommend that the film itself be seen.
Windtalkers has been in our Idaho town less than a day. I saw it this hot
afternoon, along with about seventy other people -- two dozen or so being
other Indians. Although I got there when the theatre was darkened, I knew
early on that there were other Natives present since Indian and Anglo
perceptions of humor, and their respective attendant public reactions, can
But Windtalkers is not, certainly, a humorous film in any sense. There's
some of that -- all humans have that side and certainly Natives do. But
there is not much.
The Navajo Code Talkers were, of course, U.S. Marines in every sense in the
most massive war in human history -- and one characterized by consistent
and generally very heavy ground combat. From that standpoint, Windtalkers
is most certainly a war film. But it's far more than that which is why I
broke my general practice of not seeing war films [the last one was
"MacArthur" in 1977.]
The military scenes are quite well done -- realistically, vividly:
hospital, various non-combat garrison settings, ground combat warfare. And
there is a great deal of war -- hideous war, with all of its accompanying
chaos, and with its inevitable tragic blunders and mistakes.
Essentially, the Navajo part comes through very well. Initial reservation
scenes -- set in extreme Northern Arizona at Monument Valley -- are quite
authentic. There is an adequate but too-swift discussion of the careful
creation and intricate construct of the military/Navajo Code [a vocabulary
of 411 terms] based on the extraordinarily complex Dine' language. [Every
Code Talker had to memorize this in entirety -- and also in such a fashion
that he could function lightning fast with this in combat.]
The Navajo linguistic dimensions are accurately set forth. There are
several instances, not at all central to the basic complex of film themes,
in which the movie makers have obviously taken some license with Navajo
The levels of human interaction are well handled: men in war; men with a
range of personal reactions to combat; men under extraordinary pressure and
the consequent manifestations of this vis-a-vis one another. And there are
the racial/cultural dichotomies involving Anglos universally ignorant of
Indian people: reactions initially spanning a range from friendliness to
indifference to wariness and to callousness and to some bigotry. [No Native
person in the military, BTW, has ever escaped being called "chief."] And
then, as events rush down their increasingly bloody River of No Return,
there is the inevitable transcendence and dissipation of negative
barriers -- and the emergence of very basic human solidarity.
The great importance of The Code and the Code Talkers is clearly delineated
and vividly carried via a series of mounting, highly dramatic and
extraordinarily sanguinary combat crises.
Resolution -- and I shall say no more on this but simply suggest again that
one see Windtalkers -- is quite convincingly effected.
And the acting is excellent in all respects.
For me, Windtalkers has very special meaning in its conveying to the
non-Indian world the humanity and the socio-cultural uniqueness of Native
Americans and specifically Navajos -- in the context of the critically
significant, now historic and truly legendary Code Talker mission.
A secondary, but very important dimension, is that the vividly realistic
ground combat scenes will remind anyone -- starkly, brutally -- of the
consistently hideous nature of contemporary warfare. This is the eternally
bloody reality that most Americans, given the now relatively
safe-for-our-troops mode of a bombing war from the far-far-up
stratosphere -- e.g., Libya, Iraq, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan -- avoid facing:
the pervasively lethal effects from which those on the ground can never
It would have been good if Carl Gorman, Code Talker and old friend indeed,
who passed into the Spirit World more than four years ago, had been with me
this afternoon when I viewed Windtalkers.
But, come to think of it, perhaps he was.
Hunter Gray [ Hunter Bear ]
Protected by Na´shdo´i´ba´i´
For more, see this section of our website: Carl Gorman And The Navajo Code Talkers -- With Very Appreciative Comment By Me [Hunter Gray] http://www.hunterbear.org/carl_gorman.htm