The Current

Last Mohawk code talker 'lit up' at praise for helping WW II Allies: granddaughter

We speak with the daughter and granddaughter of Louis Levi Oakes, the last of the Second World War Mohawk code talkers. He died this week, at the age of 94.

Louis Levi Oakes died Tuesday at the age of 94

Louis Levi Oakes, a Mohawk veteran from Akwesasne, was honoured by the Assembly of First Nations for his contributions as an Indigenous code talker during the Second World War. (CPAC)

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Although Canada's last surviving Mohawk code talker was recognized for his work sending messages to Allied forces during the Second World War, his granddaughter says she wishes he could have enjoyed the praise sooner.

"His face lit up all the time, every time he went somewhere," said Louis Levi Oakes's granddaughter, Teresa Oakes.

She told The Current's guest host Katie Simpson that her grandfather relished the attention he received — at events, and even at restaurants, where people would recognize him and ask for his photo.

"If this had happened years ago, he would have been able to … go so many more places," she said.

Coders sent secret messages

Oakes died Tuesday at the age of 94. He was among 17 Mohawks from Akwesasne — territory that straddles the borders of Ontario, Quebec and New York — who were trained in Louisiana to deliver encoded messages to fellow troops, so the enemy could not understand what they were communicating to each other.

The Assembly of First Nations honoured Oakes with a star blanket and beaded medallion in December to acknowledge his achievements.

"When we took him to Ottawa, to the House of Commons … we kind of knew that was going to be his last trip," Teresa said.

"He definitely wanted to go on more adventures. His body just didn't allow it."

To hear more about Oakes's remarkable life and achievements, Simpson spoke to his daughter, Dora Oakes, and his granddaughter, Teresa Oakes.

Click 'listen' near the top of this page to hear the full conversation.

Written by Kirsten Fenn. With files from CBC News. Produced by John Chipman.