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Friends, this famous quote, alleged to British Prime Minister Winston Churchill goes to show how important the Arts are to our world.

At the time, during the Second World War, there was a question of why the English government wanted more money for the Arts in such critical days, and well the reference to the cost of battle.

At the Normandy Invasion, early June, 1944, the Allieds lost just more than 4,400 soldiers, 359 of which were Canadians. American losses totaled some 2,500.

Books like The Monuments Men, by Robert M. Edsel will give you the details of the importance of the Arts, especially in times of conflict.

Theirs was a small group, only 11, scholars, artists, museum curators and architects whose mission was to help save the huge number of arts being systematically stolen by the Nazis.

As an artist and a scholar myself I am always interested in how the Arts relates to the community.

Columnist Antoine Mountain’s drawing of the Bruges Madonna, Italian sculpting master Michelangelo’s rendition of Christ about to take his first step into the world.
image courtesy of Antoine Mountain

The illustration is my drawing of the Bruges Madonna, Italian sculpting master Michelangelo’s rendition of Christ about to take his first step into our world. It was actually stolen twice, after being bought by Belgian merchants for a church in their country.

Napoleon had a go at it and so did the Nazis. Both times it was returned.

My new book is all about just that, how any form of expression serves to keep us together, by the mere fact that we began to intentionally leave a mark ever since taking charcoal to hand, thousands of years ago.

Churchill, being a painting dabbler himself, well knew the connection to health, when you take the time to clear your soul.

Another of my interests, and part of my PhD research has to do with language.

In our case, our southern relatives, the Navajo Dineh have a language so complicated not even the Japanese enemy could break the military code set up during the Second World War, to gain a toehold in the Pacific Theatre.

Iwo Jima is a small island, about three miles by five, which the Americans needed for the airport so long-distance bombers could refuel on the way to Japan.

This was the very first time the Navajo Code Talkers were used in action, to try out the new code. Up to then it took a good half-hour to relay a single message.

The Navajo Code Talkers could do the same in minutes, and in this case well over 800 without a single error! This by young marines, high-schoolers, one only 17, who had never seen an ocean, much less been to battle.

A senior officer remarked that ‘Iwo Jima would have never been taken without the Navajo Code Talkers’.

The cost, too, was deadly with more soldiers killed on that little speck of land than in any other, 6,800 GI’s.

The uranium used for the bombs dropped on Japan, ending World War II, came out of Dene lands, near Deline.

The language used to save democracy was Dineh.

Knowingly or not we each play our part in history.

Now with Covid-19 we have our one chance to rebuild Community. I for one believe that the millions set aside by our northern women leadership is well worth it if it means keeping the people safe and healthy during this pandemic. Mahsi, thank you.

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Antoine Mountain

Antoine Mountain is a Dene artist and writer originally from Radilih Koe/Fort Good Hope. He can be reached at www.mountainarts.com.

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  1. Thank you Mr. Mountain for sharing this story. I had heard about the code talkers but there was little more information, and this should be included in all the history books with these heroes names and languages they spoke. These are proud stories, and Canada needs to take better notice of them. Thank you again, Nancy