AKWESASNE – Louis Levi Oakes, “Tahagietagwa”, Turtle Clan, age 94, of 380 Wade LaFrance Memorial Road, Snye peacefully passed away Tuesday evening, May 29, 2019 at the Iakhihsohtha Lodge, where he was surrounded by his family.
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Levi was born January 23, 1925 in St. Regis, Quebec, the son of the late Angus and Mary (Porke) Oakes. He attended schools on the reservation and later received his high school diploma through Operation Education in cooperation with the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe and Salmon River Central School. At age 18, he entered the US Army he was a Technician Fifth Grade with the Company B 442nd Signal Battalion. More importantly, he along with 22 Akwesasne comrades, used their language to assist the US troops as a Mohawk Language Code Talker in the South Pacific, Philippines, and New Guinea. He was honorably discharged on February 16, 1946. While in the Army, he was awarded the American Silver Star for courageous conduct and in 2016 he, along with other code talkers, received the Congressional Silver Medal. Levi was also honored for his service at the Special Chiefs Assembly at the Assembly of First Nations in Ottawa and was honored by members of the parliament from the House of Commons in Ottawa. In 2017, he was nationally recognized as the last living Mohawk Code Talker.
After his discharge from the Army, he worked iron in the Buffalo area for 30 years before returning back to the reservation. When he returned home, he started working for the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne Department of Public Works, where he retired as their supervisor after 30 years of service. He was a lifelong communicant of St. Regis Catholic Church and life member of the Andrew W. Cook American Legion Post #1479. He enjoyed gardening, driving around the community on his machinery, weaving rugs, and cherished the time he was able to visit with his children and grandchildren.
Levi is survived by his children and their spouses, Diane and Herman Swamp, Louis Oakes, Raymond Oakes, Wally and Bonnie Oakes, Dora Oakes, Debbie Oakes and Mark O’Neil, and Joseph Oakes, all of Akwesasne; many grandchildren, great grandchildren and great-great grandchildren; and numerous nieces, nephews, and cousins.
In addition to his parents, he was predeceased by his wife Annabelle (Mitchell) Oakes on April 18, 2012; his sons, Lawrence J. Oakes in 1984, Charles T. Oakes in 1999 and Gaitlin Oakes in 2013; a son-in-law, Sam Garrow in 2011; his sister, Margaret Pyke on June 7, 1993; and his brothers, Samuel J. Oakes on August 14, 1979, Lawrence C. Oakes, Sr. on April 29, 2000, and John Oakes on June 14, 2013.
Friends may call at the Akwesasne Homemaker starting Thursday 6:00 PM until Saturday 9:30 AM. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated Saturday 10:30 AM at St. Regis Catholic Church with Rev. Jerome Pastores, celebrating. Burial with full military honors will follow in St. Lawrence Cemetery, Akwesasne.