Navajo (language)

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Date: 1991

Region: North America

Subject: Political/Economic/Social Opinion

Medium: Radio


Artist: Navajo Language

Confronting Bodies: Armed Forces Radio

Dates of Action: 1991

Location: Persian Gulf

Description of Artwork: Radio broadcast greetings in the Navajo language.

The Incident: Military censors made one of the strangest additions to their already strange list of banned communications: the Navajo language. A small number of Navajos, it seems, wanted to send broadcast greetings in their native tongue to loved ones stationed overseas, but Armed forces radio refused to pass the messages along. Once again, the mere possibility of enemy signals lurking in the noise was too much for the censors to bear. 'We have a responsibility to control what's on the radio,' said the lieutenant colonel in charge, 'and if I don't know what it says I can't control it.'

Results of Incident: Bill Richardson, a New Mexico congressman, successfully impressed upon the Armed Forces Radio the absurdity of the ban. The radio station lifted the ban allowing the Navajo greetings to reach the soldiers.

Source: Julian Dibbell,"Tales from the Crypto Wars," Village Voice, 8/3/93, Pg. 3