By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians has lost a great leader, man, and servant. Beloved Man Robert S. Youngdeer, a former Principal Chief, passed away on the evening of Saturday, Oct. 20.
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. Last October, he was awarded the Chapel of the Four Chaplains Legion of Honor Bronze Medallion from Gregory Hunt, Marine Corps League Foundation president.
“He was a Beloved Man of the Cherokee, a decorated Marine, a respected Principal Chief of the EBCI, a Mason, a former criminal investigator with the BIA, and so much more,” said his granddaughter, Angela Nelson, on behalf of the Youngdeer family. “Robert S. Youngdeer will be missed by many, and always respected and cherished as a great man and wonderful leader for the Cherokee people.”
Tribal Council bestowed the title of Beloved Man onto Chief Youngdeer with the passage of Res. No. 91 (2018) on Jan. 4. The resolution, submitted by the Steve Youngdeer American Legion Post 143, passed unanimously by those present and read in part, “Those who enjoy the freedom for which this brother paid such a high price, as he laid 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.”
Several tribal leaders issued statements following Chief Youngdeer’s passing.
Principal Chief Richard G. Sneed said, “I am saddened to hear of the recent passing of Chief Robert Youngdeer. Chief Youngdeer embodied what it means to be a Cherokee leader. He selflessly served our country and the EBCI. Our Tribe has lost a pillar of our community, and it grieves me that we won’t have his wisdom to rely on anymore. My thoughts and prayers are with the family and loved ones.”
Vice Chief Alan B. Ensley said, “Principal Chief Robert Youngdeer’s passing marks the end of an era of public service by a dedicated man. My sympathy is with the Youngdeer family, and our entire Eastern Band of Cherokee community. Chief Youngdeer served our Tribe and our country with pride and honor, a great man that will be dearly missed.”
Tribal Council Chairman Adam Wachacha said, “On behalf of Tribal Council, it is with a heavy heart that I send out my deepest condolences to the family of Chief Robert Youngdeer, Beloved Man of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. A title so well deserved by such an amazing man who was a courageous Cherokee warrior and an extraordinary leader of our Tribe and our Country. Chief Youngdeer embodied courage, strength, and a heart that is an example to us all. A decorated veteran, a Chief, a Beloved Man of his people, and a great friend to all who had the honor of making his acquaintance.”
Chief Youngdeer 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”.
When the title of Beloved Man was bestowed upon Chief Youngdeer in January, Lew Harding, Post 143 Commander, stated, “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.”
The One Feather will report on services and memorials and will print the full obituary when that information becomes available.