Silver medals honoring eight “code talkers” who were members of the Meskwaki community were shipped to the settlement near Tama rather than presented at a Washington ceremony for security reasons, according to an official of the U.S. Mint.
Responding to an inquiry from Sen. Chuck Grassley, the official said the Meskwakis, as well as some other tribes involved in the ceremony to honor American Indians trained to use their native languages to provide secure battlefield communications during World Wars I and II, had the medals shipped directly to their communities.
“Many tribes were concerned about the liability in getting silver duplicate medals back to their respective states,” Richard Peterson, deputy director of the Department of Treasury U.S. Mint, wrote Grassley.
So the Mint offered to ship the medals and their ceremonial display boxes directly to a tribe after signing a silver medal transfer agreement.
“The Meskwaki Nation preferred this shipment option,” he said.
That left some of the Meskwakis who traveled to the ceremonies at the Capitol and the National Museum of the American Indian Nov. 20 disappointed. They wanted to accept the medals personally on behalf of their fathers and other family members, all who are deceased.
After going public with their story, a representative of American Legion Robert Morgan Post 701 near the Meskwaki settlement told the family members the medals would be presented at a New Year’s Eve pow-wow at the casino operated by the Meskwakis.
The transfer agreement had been signed a day earlier by Judith Bender, Tribal Council chairwoman, Peterson said.
The medals were delivered to Meskwaki Controller Ram Dhanwada Dec. 12, he added.
Attempts to get comment from Dhanwada or tribal officials were unsuccessful. No one answered the phone at tribal council offices Tuesday.