Chester Nez and the Unbreakable Code: a Navajo Talker’s Story

Chester Nez and the Unbreakable Code: a Navajo Talker’s Story
Written by Joseph Bruchac and Amini-Holmes

Publisher’s Summary:
As a boy, Chester Nez was taught his native language and culture were useless, but he was later called on to use his Navajo language to help create an unbreakable military code during WWII.

Primary Source Pairing:
The story of Chester Nez is a powerful one that gives us a glimpse into a devastating time in our country’s history for the Native American people. Chester was forced to assimilate at boarding school along with thousands of other Native American children. Chester’s ability to maintain his own culture, the culture that was being forced out of him, ended up being a significant contribution this country. For this primary source pairing, use a photograph showing a class of Chiricahua Apache students at the Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania. This photograph is part of a Native American Boarding Schools Primary Source Set from the Library of Congress. As the learning environment and the age of the readers allow, use the primary sources in this set to examine all points of view from this time period. Invite students to make observations about what they see in the primary sources and encourage them to make connections to what they read about Chester’s life in the book Chester Nez and the Unbreakable Code: a Navajo Talker’s Story.

Questions for Discussion:

  • Describe what you see.
  • What do you notice first?
  • What people and objects are shown?
  • How are they arranged?
  • What is the physical setting?
  • What’s happening in the image?
  • Make a connection to this photograph with something you read in Chester Nez and the Unbreakable Code: a Navajo Talker’s Story

Credits:
Book Cover and Summary: Follett
Chiricahua Apaches at the Carlisle Indian School: Library of Congress
Native American Boarding Schools Primary Source Set: Library of Congress

Related Primary Source Pairings:
Undefeated, Written by Steve Sheinkin