Tobias William Frazier, Sr. (1892–1975) was a full-blood Choctaw Indian who was a member of the famous fourteen Choctaw Code Talkers. The Code Talkers pioneered the use of American Indian languages as military code during war. Their initial exploits took place during World War I, and were repeated by other Native American tribes during World War II. They are referred to collectively as Code Talkers.
Frazier, in addition to his contribution to American history as a Choctaw Code Talker, also personifies the Choctaws' success in accommodating the changes brought about by Oklahoma's statehood, following the dissolution of their self-governing republic.
After their arrival in the Indian Territory via the Trail of Tears, the Frazier family became leaders in Choctaw government and society. Tobias Frazier's grandfather, Robert, was elected a county judge of Cedar County, Choctaw Nation. Choctaw jurisprudence would be familiar to today's court officials, except for the role played by the judge: in the Choctaw Nation he was always a visible and influential leader of society.
Tobias Frazier's father, Reason J. Frazier, was a county ranger, or member of the "Lighthorse" serving Cedar County. Lighthorsemen were lawmen, and charged with keeping the peace.
Starting in 1832 Choctaw authorities, in mapping and laying out their new nation, created an orderly system of regional districts and counties, drawing their borders to conform to generally recognizable geographic landmarks. A prominent waterway known as Frazier Creek formed the boundary between Towson County and Cedar County. The creek took its name from the Frazier family.Frazier Creek is in northeastern Choctaw County and southeastern Pushmataha County in Oklahoma.
Fraziers have always been keen observer of Choctaw politics and government. Thirty years after the dissolution of Choctaw government one was still able to describe its political and legal system in intimate detail. "I think that we had the best laws in the country, and it would be better if we had the same laws now in the state," he proclaimed with pride in 1937.
Tobias Frazier was born in 1892 in Sulphur Springs, Indian Territory, the county seat of what was then known as Cedar County, Choctaw Nation, in the Indian Territory. The territory later joined Oklahoma Territory in forming the state of Oklahoma in 1907.
Frazier attended Armstrong Academy, a school for Choctaw boys operated by the Choctaw Nation. While a student there he participated in the football team. Near the end of his life, when asked by a newspaper reporter what position he played on the team, he laughed and said "Anything but quarterback".
Upon the outbreak of World War I, Frazier enlisted in the U.S. Army and was later assigned to the 36th Division in France, where he served as a sergeant in the division's headquarters intelligence unit.
While serving in France the 36th Division found that German troops were able to intercept its communications. In addition, they were able to decrypt the military codes used by American forces. This enabled the Germans to successfully stymie and thwart American movements.
Several Choctaw Indians served in the 142nd Regiment of the 36th Division, and with the support of a commanding officer proposed using the Choctaw language as a military code.
Frazier and seven other Choctaw soldiers in the 142nd Regiment, noting the American army's communications predicament, devised, tested and deployed an innovative experiment, which entailed speaking in Choctaw while using a field telephone. Choctaws were placed in each company of soldiers to send or transmit information using their language as code. Runners were also employed to extend the system as necessary. Six additional Choctaws from other units were also brought to bear, for a total of fourteen code talkers.
The Germans heard the Choctaw language for the first time on October 26, 1918 during a "delicate" American withdrawal of two companies of the 2nd Battalion from Chufilly to Chardeny. The movement was successful.
"The enemy's complete surprise is evidence that he could not decipher the messages," the Americans' commanding officer observed. A captured German officer later confirmed they were "completely confused by the Indian language and gained no benefit whatsoever" from their wiretaps.
No Choctaw word or phrase existed to describe "machine gun". Frazier and his Choctaw colleagues improvised successfully, using Choctaw words for "big gun" to describe "artillery" and "little gun shoot fast" for "machine gun". "The results were very gratifying," their commanding officer observed.
One of Frazier's colleagues was Joseph Oklahombi–whose surname means "man killer" in the Choctaw language–Oklahoma's most decorated war veteran. His medals are on display in the Oklahoma Historical Society.
Frazier, Oklahombi, and their fellow Choctaw Code Talkers were honored posthumously by the Choctaw Nation, which in 1986 presented each the Choctaw Medal of Honor. France followed suit in 1989, awarding them the Fifth Republic's "Chevalier de l'Ordre National du Merite" (Knight of the National Order of Merit). The award is the highest that France may bestow. Frazier was also awarded the Purple Heart.
"Code Talker" is a phrase coined during or after World War II. It did not exist during World War I, and Tobias Frazier was never known to refer to himself as one. In later years he described his wartime activities to family members as "talking on the radio", or field telephone.
Frazier was proud of the Choctaw language, his native tongue. He spoke it at home as a first language and was proud of its role in breaking the Germans' Hindenberg Line during the war.
Nonetheless, the Choctaw language did not have a future, he noted with sadness. The language will be "dead" in the not-too-distant future, after which it will exist only in books, he told a newspaper reporter in 1966.
"My niece, for instance, who attends Rattan school, will have no need for the old tribal language," he told the reporter with surprising prescience. "Why should she learn it?"
Frazier, who died in 1975, is buried in the cemetery at Rattan, Oklahoma. Bill Frazier Road in Rattan is named for Frazier's son, who also served in the U.S. military.
The unique contributions made by the Frazier family continues through the present generation. Tobias Frazier's granddaughter, Beth Frazier Lawless, a school teacher in Rattan, Oklahoma, initiated a student research project in 1999 with international ramifications.
Ms. Lawless's students investigated the crashes during World War II of Royal Air Force pilots in the Kiamichi Mountains, erecting the AT6 Monument in their honor. Over 1,000 attended the dedication ceremony, many from Great Britain. The ceremony was covered live by the BBC, American television networks, and newspapers. It was attended by military officials of the United Kingdom and New Zealand, both of whom came from their countries' embassies in Washington, D.C., and by Britain's vice consul to the United States.
The Choctaw are a Native American people originally based in the Southeastern Woodlands, in what is now Alabama and Mississippi. Their Choctaw language is a Western Muskogean language. Today, Choctaw people are enrolled in three federally recognized tribes: the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, and Jena Band of Choctaw Indians in Louisiana.
Pushmataha County is a county in the southeastern part of the U.S. state of Oklahoma. As of the 2010 census, the population was 11,572. Its county seat is Antlers.
Rattan is a town in Pushmataha County, Oklahoma, United States. The population was 310 at the 2010 census.
The Kiamichi River is a river in southeastern Oklahoma, United States of America. A tributary of the Red River of the South, its headwaters rise on Pine Mountain in the Ouachita Mountains near the Arkansas border. From its source in Polk County, Arkansas, it flows approximately 177 miles (285 km) to its confluence with the Red River at Hugo, Oklahoma.
The Choctaw Nation is a Native American territory covering about 6,952,960 acres, occupying portions of southeastern Oklahoma in the United States. The Choctaw Nation is the third-largest federally recognized tribe in the United States and the second-largest Indian reservation in area after the Navajo. As of 2011, the tribe has 223,279 enrolled members, of whom 84,670 live within the state of Oklahoma and 41,616 live within the Choctaw Nation's jurisdiction. A total of 233,126 people live within these boundaries, with its tribal jurisdictional area comprising 10.5 counties in the state. It shares borders with the reservations of the Chickasaw, Muscogee, and Cherokee, as well as the U.S. states of Texas and Arkansas.
Cloudy is an unincorporated community located in Pushmataha County, Oklahoma, United States. It is 12 miles northeast of Rattan. Cloudy is located at.
Belzoni is a community in Pushmataha County, Oklahoma, United States. Located several miles southwest of Rattan, it was formerly home to a thriving community and continues as a place name.
Corinne is an unincorporated community in southern Pushmataha County, Oklahoma, United States, located 19 miles east of Antlers. Using the Public Land Survey System commonly in use in Oklahoma, the community is located in T22-4S-R19E.
Dela is an unincorporated community in Pushmataha County, Oklahoma, United States, located six miles southeast of Antlers. It is within the jurisdiction of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma.
Finley is an unincorporated community in Pushmataha County, Oklahoma, 10 miles northeast of Antlers.
Cedar County was a political subdivision of the Choctaw Nation in the Indian Territory. The county formed part of the nation’s Apukshunnubbee District, or Second District, one of three administrative super-regions.
Sulphur Springs was a Choctaw Indian community formerly existing in the Choctaw Nation of Indian Territory. It was located 3/4 mile south-southeast of the highway intersection of OK 3 and OK 93 in present-day Rattan, in Pushmataha County, Oklahoma.
Jack's Fork County, also known as Jack Fork County, was a political subdivision of the Choctaw Nation of Indian Territory. The county formed part of the nation's Pushmataha District, or Third District, one of three administrative super-regions.
The Pushmataha County Historical Society is a historical society devoted to collecting and preserving the history of Pushmataha County, Oklahoma. It is headquartered in the historic Frisco Depot in Antlers, Oklahoma, which it operates as a public museum.
The Choctaw Capitol Building is a historic building built in 1884 that housed the government of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma from 1884–1907. The building is located in Pushmataha County, Oklahoma, two miles north of Tuskahoma. The site also includes the Choctaw Nation Council House and the Old Town Cemetery of Tuskahoma.
Apukshunnubbee District was one of three administrative super-regions comprising the former Choctaw Nation in Indian Territory. Also called the Second District, it encompassed the southeastern one-third of the nation.
The Choctaw code talkers were a group of Choctaw Indians from Oklahoma who pioneered the use of Native American languages as military code during World War I.
The AT6 Monument is a granite memorial to Royal Air Force cadets who were killed while on a training flight during World War II. It stands on Big Mountain, north of Moyers, Oklahoma, in the United States, and was dedicated on February 20, 2000—the 57th anniversary of the deadly crashes.
Pushmataha County was a proposed political subdivision created by the Sequoyah Constitutional Convention. The convention, meeting in Muskogee, Indian Territory in 1905, established the political and administrative layout of a prospective U.S. state it called the State of Sequoyah.
Joseph Oklahombi was an American soldier of the Choctaw nation. He was the most-decorated World War I soldier from Oklahoma. He served in Company D, First Battalion, 141st Regiment, Seventy-first Brigade of the Thirty-sixth Infantry Division during World War I, where he was one of the Choctaw code talkers.