Press Release: Gov Evers Signs Senate Bill 633 Designating the Ho-Chunk World War II Code Talkers Memorial Highway

Office of Governor Tony Evers
Gov Evers Signs Senate Bill 633 Designating the Ho-Chunk World War II Code Talkers Memorial Highway

BARABOO — Gov. Tony Evers today signed Senate Bill 633, now 2023 Wisconsin Act 216, designating the Ho-Chunk World War II Code Talkers Memorial Highway. The governor was joined by Ho-Chunk Nation President John Greendeer, bill authors, local officials, citizens of the Ho-Chunk Nation, and members of the community at a bill signing ceremony in Baraboo.

“Over the last five years, we have been proud to work together with Indigenous communities and leaders to bolster Native language and cultural preservation efforts, and this has been critical to our ongoing work to strengthen our government-to-government relationships with the Native Nations,” said Gov. Evers. “Signing this bill today is a continuation of those efforts, and this designation will cement the incredible history of the Ho-Chunk code talkers in our collective narrative and highlight these individuals’ important contributions for folks, families, and visitors to learn about.”  

“This is a significant moment not only for the 14 Ho-Chunk code talkers we are recognizing today but for future generations to learn more about what these exceptional individuals did to influence the course of history using the language we have worked so hard to preserve,” said Ho-Chunk President Greendeer.   

“The preservation of our Native language is something we are committed to seeing continued, and it is wonderful to celebrate this effort in this way,” said Representative Kristin WhiteEagle, District II Ho-Chunk Nation Legislator. 

According to the National Museum of the American Indian, during World Wars I and II, Native Americans from across the country and more than 20 Native Nations were enlisted to perform the incredible task of using their Indigenous languages to communicate sensitive wartime information. Often working in pairs, code talkers would relay and receive messages in highly dangerous situations as radiomen would be targeted by enemy fire to limit the transmission of information. 

The efforts of code talkers helped secure victories in some of the greatest battles of the 20th Century and were essential in securing an Allied victory in World War II, as their coded messages were never deciphered by the Axis forces. Unfortunately, code talkers were instructed to keep their work a secret, and while the program was declassified in 1968, code talkers did not begin receiving Congressional Gold Medals to recognize their service and sacrifice until 2001.  

Later, the U.S. Congress passed the “Code Talkers Recognition Act of 2008” for the purpose of issuing Congressional Medals in recognition of Native American code talkers service. Additional information on Native Nations, including Native Nations in Wisconsin, that have received Congressional Medals for code talkers service is available here. To date, the U.S. Department of Defense has recognized and listed 14 veterans from the Ho-Chunk Nation who served as code talkers, making it one of the most recognized Native Nations for its code talkers. 

Senate Bill 633, now 2023 Wisconsin Act 216: 

  • Designates and requires the marking of Interstate 90 from the Minnesota border in La Crosse County to the intersection of Interstate 90 and Interstate 94 in Monroe County as the Ho-Chunk World War II Code Talkers Memorial Highway; and 
  • Lists the 14 Ho-Chunk code talkers that the federal Department of Defense has recognized, as well as specifically include any other unidentified Ho-Chunk World War II code talkers. 
An online version of this release is available here.