By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
Former Principal Chief Robert S. Youngdeer has served the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and the United States of America for decades. Due to his many sacrifices and service, Chief Youngdeer has been bestowed the title of Beloved Man becoming only the second person to receive such a designation since the early 1800s.
Tribal Council bestowed the title onto Chief Youngdeer with the passage of Res. No. 91 (2018) during its regular session on Thursday, Jan. 4. The resolution, submitted by the Steve Youngdeer American Legion Post 143, was passed unanimously by those present.
The resolution reads in part, “Those who enjoy the freedom for which this brother paid such a high price, as he laid face down in the dirt, a bullet through his head, his life’s blood draining from his body on a faraway Pacific Island, wish to honor his sacrifice as a Warrior Chief who has dedicated his life in service to his people and to his country.”
Chief Youngdeer served in the U.S. Marine Corps in World War II. He was wounded at Guadalcanal for which he received the Purple Heart. He later became a paratrooper in the U.S. Army which was followed by a career as an Indian policeman on various reservations. Recently, he was awarded the Chapel of the Four Chaplains Legion of Honor Bronze Medallion from Gregory Hunt, Marine Corps League Foundation president.
He served as Principal Chief of the Tribe from 1983-87 and later penned his memoirs entitled “The Memoirs of Robert Youngdeer: Marine, Chief, and Proud American”.
Lew Harding, Post 143 Commander, said on Thursday, “I have been privileged to serve the veterans community, here on our Boundary, for over 25 years, and I have known and grown to love and appreciate so many of our men and women who have served. This dear brother, to me, is the most inspirational of all.”
He noted that the resolution was submitted with the unanimous approval of the Post. “We feel that it would be very appropriate for this dear brother, who is still with us, to be so designated.”
Chief Youngdeer was unable to be in attendance, but his son, Merritt Youngdeer, spoke, “I want to thank you very much for this honor for my dad. I couldn’t keep it back from sharing with him. It made him very happy. He’s not able to get around that well anymore, and your days get sort of long when you’re in your easy chair, and its cold, and then he hears some news like this and it makes him feel good.”
He went on to say, “We appreciate this Council. He’s a proud American. He’s a proud member of this Tribe, and this is a very wonderful honor to bestow upon him.”
Russell Townsend, EBCI tribal historic preservation officer, gave a brief history of the title of Beloved Man throughout history in a previous One Feather article, “In 1785 (Treaty of Hopewell), Benjamin Hawkins recorded for Andrew Pickins that the Cherokee showed up in great numbers with their women and children, and they allowed their Beloved Men and Women to speak. Among those Beloved Men and Women who spoke were Corntassel, or Longtassel, and Nancy Ward, Beloved Woman. So, we know in 1785 that the term was used, and it was used throughout the 1700s.”
He further noted, “These were people who were more important than chiefs and more important than headmen of a particular community. They were respected throughout the Cherokee world.”
Jerry Wolfe, a fluent speaker and traditionalist who served in the U.S. Navy in World War II, was given the title of Beloved Man in 2013. According to Barbara Duncan, Museum of the Cherokee Indian education director, the last recorded instance she could find of a Beloved Man was Little Turkey who died in 1801.