Navajo Code Talker documentary to show on Wednesday

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times
Samuel Sandoval, a Navajo Code Talker, speaks during an interview, Monday at Navajo Transitional Energy Company in Farmington.


FARMINGTON — The story of Navajo Code Talker Samuel Sandoval will screen for the first time on the Navajo Nation on Wednesday in Shiprock.

"The Heart of a Warrior" is a 2012 documentary that focuses on the Shiprock resident and tells the story of the code talkers, who developed and transmitted messages in a code based on the Navajo language during the Pacific Theater of World War II.

"I feel good," Sandoval said about the screening during an interview Monday.

The Navajo Transitional Energy Company is sponsoring the event.

The idea for the documentary developed after Sandoval was a guest speaker at the college in November 2010. 

Also contributing to its development was a question a student asked to Samuel Sandoval's wife, Malula Sandoval, about the legacy her husband would leave.

"It was a big eye opener. …That was the beginning of it," Malula Sandoval said.

A film crew visited the reservation in spring 2011 to interview Samuel Sandoval and to visit locations important to his life. The documentary was produced by Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, Kansas.

The documentary includes footage shot by Malula Sandoval during their travels in the United States and internationally.

"I feel that our youngsters, our children, our grandchildren (and) whoever should have a little knowledge, at least, about how it was developed and who did it," Samuel Sandoval said about the code.

Samuel Sandoval talks about his days as a Navajo Code Talker, Monday at Navajo Transitional Energy Company in Farmington.

World War II was happening when Sandoval was a student at Navajo Methodist Mission in Farmington, where he graduated in 1942.

In 1943 he enlisted in the Marine Corps in Farmington after hearing stories about the military from Marine and Navy personnel while working in Hawthorne, Nevada.

Sandoval was sent to Santa Fe to undergo physical fitness testing and was among 60 Navajo men sent to the recruitment depot in San Diego.

After completing boot camp, the group was transferred to Camp Pendleton for code talker training.

He said the original 29 Navajo Code Talkers developed the code's first 200 words and an alphabet, but the 60 men expanded the code, including adding two lines of alphabet.

"We did not want to use letter by letter, it's too time consuming. So, we thought of things that we knew would be workable," Sandoval said.

After his military service, he returned to Farmington then moved to Shiprock, where he has lived for 50 years.

Among his accomplishments in his professional career are starting and managing alcohol and substance abuse programs in Shiprock and Farmington.

Copies of the film will be sold at the event for $10, cash only.

A portion of the proceeds will go to a scholarship fund for Native American students at Johnson County Community College.

"We are honored to assist Code Talker Samuel Sandoval with the viewing of the documentary about his life and his service to our country," NTEC CEO Clark Moseley said in the company's release.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-546-4636.

Samuel Sandoval poses for a portrait, Monday during an interview at Navajo Transitional Energy Company offices in Farmington.


If you go

What: "The Heart of a Warrior" screening

When: 6:30 p.m. Wednesday

Where: The Phil L. Thomas Performing Arts Center in Shiprock

Cost: Free

More info: Navajo Transitional Energy Company, 505-278-8625