Joe Hosteen Kellwood, a Navajo Code Talker from World War II, died Monday in Phoenix at the age of 95.
He was trained at the Navajo Talkers’ School at Camp Elliott in San Diego. In the interview, he remembered a moment when his sacred rituals conflicted with military rules. He had boarded a transport ship headed for Melbourne, Australia, where he would join the 1st Marine Division, 5th Marine Regiment.
Kellwood had corn pollen, a gift from his uncle, who told him in Navajo to use it during his journey. His uncle called the Pacific Ocean a mother figure for their people. In the Republic interview, Kellwood said his uncle had told him to stand by the ocean, place corn pollen in his mouth, on his head, into the air, and pray to the Holy People.
Rather than ask his ranking officers for permission, Kellwood mixed a piece of gum with corn pollen. He chewed it into a ball and spat it into the ocean. The ritual gave him confidence he would return safely.
You can read their story in their own words in their book Navajo Weapon. All of the original team have passed, and almost none of the rest remain. Those all prepare for this last journey.
In beauty I walk.
With beauty behind me, I walk.
With beauty above me, I walk.
With beauty around me, I walk.
It has become beauty again.
- Navajo Blessing Way prayerHat tip: Chris Lynch