WASHINGTON, D.C. – Four Crow Nation code talkers were honored on Dec. 4 with Congressional Gold Medals given to their descendants.

Montana soldiers Barney Old Coyote, Henry Old Coyote, Samson Birdinground and Cyril Notafraid used the Crow language during military intelligence operations in World War II to save countless lives. Conceived in 1918, the code talker program used unique Native American languages for communications, and was comprised of more than 400 Native Americans who volunteered to defend the country.

Montana Sens. Jon Tester and John Walsh, along with U.S. Treasurer Rosa Gumataotao Rios, presented the descendants with the awards.

“The Crow Tribe has a long and proud history of serving in the Armed Forces,” said Tester, Chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee. “These young men transmitted secret coded messages using their language, which was so unique that the code could not be broken by enemy forces. That unbreakable code and the spirit of the code talkers lives on today in the language and culture of the Crow Nation.”

Walsh echoed those sentiments and explained that the honor was long overdue.

“These four American heroes represent the best of Montana and our nation,” Walsh said. “And I’m proud that these men and their families are finally receiving the proper recognition for helping free our world of tyranny.”

House of the Crow Nation Chairman Darrin Old Coyote and Speaker Knute Old Crow accepted the medals on behalf of relatives and their families.

“Today was a historic day for our tribe,” Old Coyote said. “Two of my grandfathers were honored today, and this recognition means a lot to us. All of the code talkers sacrificed a lot for this country, utilizing our language to protect and serve this nation. We wouldn’t be here today without their service.”