Never have I been more impressed with an individual upon an initial meeting, than I was with Chief Robert Youngdeer. In the 1980s, I had the privilege of interviewing him regarding the plight of captive bears in some Cherokee exhibits. It was late afternoon when I stopped by to ask if I could possibly talk with the Chief about the controversial topic. Although the receptionist seemed hesitant, she ushered me into Chief Youngdeer’s office after conferring with him.
I have never forgotten the warm, gracious reception I received from the Chief. Considering the issue, I expected some resistance and defensiveness. However, Chief Youngdeer made me feel my concern for the bears was important to him as he patiently listened and answered questions. He then explained the cultural dilemma, as he saw it, and expressed his own concern for the bears.
Learning of his recent passing, I could not help but feel saddened as I reflected on my extraordinary encounter with Chief Robert Youngdeer.