Laura Tohé

Laura Tohe,

Navajo Nation Poet Laureate


Wednesday, March 24, 2021,

2:30-3:30 pm,

an ASA Zoom Webinar

in collaboration with Arizona Humanities*

During WWII a group of young Navajo men enlisted in the Marines without knowing they would be called on to develop a secret code for communicating strategic locations to their comrades. This select group devised a Navajo language code that was accurate, quick, and never broken by the Japanese enemy. It saved many American lives.  This talk profiles four of the Code Talkers, reflecting on their growing up, their military service, and the personal and spiritual costs of the war after they returned home—to continued poverty, which they overcame through perseverance, helping change the Navajo Nation and their communities.

Laura Tohe is Diné, Sleepy Rock clan, born for the Bitter Water clan. She holds a PhD in Indigenous American Literature and is Professor Emerita with Distinction at Arizona State University. She is a librettist and an award-winning poet. The daughter of a Code Talker, she grew up at Crystal, New Mexico near the Chuska Mountains on the Diné homeland.

Her books include Making Friends with Water (poems); No Parole Today, a book on Indian boarding schools; Tseyí, Deep in the Rock: Reflections on Canyon de Chelly, a book in collaboration with photographer Stephen Strom; and Code Talker Stories, an oral history book with the remaining Navajo Code Talkers. The Phoenix Symphony commissioned her to write the libretto for Mark Grey’s  Enemy Slayer, A Navajo Oratorio, which made its 2008 world premiere as part of the Phoenix Symphony’s 60th anniversary. More recently, her Nahasdzáán in the Glittering World, a chamber opera with music by Thierry Pécou, had its world premiere in Rouen in 2019. 

*For access to the Zoom Webinar, please use this link to Arizona Humanities:

Compiled by Suzanne Ferguson, Academy Village Volunteer

This program is made possible by Arizona Humanities.

March 24: “From ‘Chief’ to Code Talker”