Charlie Little Coyote
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Chief Charlie Little Coyote,A man of honor, talent and respect
By Gimmie Jo Maze - The Gyp Hill Premiere
Mouse Trail; Morning Killer; Chief; WWII and Korean War Veteran; Sargeant; Softball Pitcher.
These are just a few of the names and titles given to one Native American that we all simply know as Charlie Little Coyote.
Charlie is a full-blood Cheyenne Native American and moved to Medicine Lodge under the advice of his uncle when he was discharged from the Marine Corp in 1953.
Charlieís roots in Medicine Lodge go just a little bit deeper than 47 year residency in the area. He is the great-great grandson of Black Kettle who was the Cheyenne Chief that signed the Treaty of Medicine Lodge for peace in 1867 by the Peace Commission of the United States and the five tribes of Plains Native Americans-the Kiowa, the Comanche, the Kiowa-Apache, the Arapahoe, and the Cheyenne.
"Black Kettle wanted peace. He was what you would call a peaceful man," said Charlie.
"To me it was almost as if the white man wanted to kill him because he wanted peace."
Black Kettle was one of the most influential Native American leaders in the efforts to create a peaceful coexistence between both white society and the culture of the Native Americans of the Plains. Even though his people were forced from their land and taken advantage of numerous times during the course of the early and mid-1800s, Black Kettle continued to pursue peace with the white man and comply with their requests up until his death at the Battle of Washita on November 27, 1868. That day, all hopes for the Cheyenne of sustaining their people as independent died along with their leader, Black Kettle and by 1869, they had all been driven from their homes on the open plains and confined to reservations.
Charlie is proud of his Native American heritage and continues in many of the Cheyenne ways today.
As an Aquatic Marine, Charlie also served in the Navy and the Army during his military career. He entered the service in the 1940s, saw action in WWII and Korea, and was stationed in Vietnam during a time prior to the war there.
"We (the Cheyenne) were all very patriotic," said Charlie.
On one such occasion, Charlie received paper work while overseas already serving from his father stating that he had been drafted.
"I volunteered every time."
He moved to Medicine Lodge in 1953 and began working at the Gyp Mill. Charlie says that he thinks the reason he was hired so quickly after moving to Medicine Lodge was so that he could play the position of pitcher on the Millís softball team.
He spent 19 years at the Mill before beginning work in the oil field. That was his trade until 1982 when he was severely injured in a drilling accident.
"Why I survived it, I do not know," he said.
As a child, Charlie grew up near Fonda, Oklahoma, which today no longer exists, but was located between Canton and Seiling. He said that, contrary to popular belief, the Cheyenne never actually were placed on a reservation, but were each given 160 acres of land instead.
Growing up in the early 1930s was difficult for Charlie and his family as long hours and hard work sometimes yielded little for them.
"Here I am, spoiled," said Charlie.
"Back home we didnít have air conditioning, we didnít have fans. He recalls working hard during his youth and even attending a white manís school.
Charlie tells the story of the time he first started school. Apparently, it was not customary for Native American children to be allowed to wear their braids to school and they were cut off.
Charlie was raised in many of the Cheyenne ways. From birth the only parents he knew were his grandparents. As in the way of the Cheyenne, the grandparents are responsible for training and teaching the younger generations while the parents were required to work and make a living. For many years, Charlie and his sister did not share a relationship with their parents and later found out on their own who they were. Even though this is difficult for us to understand in this culture, to Charlie it was just how things were.
He also added that with time he came to know his parents.
"I got closer to them as I got older," he said.
He recalls a simpler time and place where respect and honor were just a common everyday occurrence.
"Back home we used to get along before these modern times when greed came along."
Charlie said that the Cheyenne are a kind and respectful people who wished only to instill those qualities in their own children and grandchildren.
Sadly, much of that is fading away in todayís society.
One very important aspect of the Cheyenne life is the language.
"This is one of those things that should be preserved of the Cheyenne," said Charlie.
Charlie recalls sitting across from one of his school buddies and asking "What are we supposed to do?" in Cheyenne. Unfortunately, he was caught by the teacher and was soon "seeing stars" after being reprimanded.
In 1991, Charlie was installed as one of forty-four chiefs of the Cheyenne tribe.
"I didnít want to be a chief," he said.
After watching his family and seeing some of the things that they went through, Charlie said that being a chief was the farthest thing from his mind.
At the request of an aunt, Charlie decided that he would fulfill the qualifications for chief.
"To turn something like this down would be a disgrace to my family," he said.
As a chief of the Cheyenne tribe, Charlie is responsible for taking care of all the people who need any kind of help, keeping peace among his people, and passing on stories and educating the young in the Cheyenne ways.
Charlie acts as a judge along with the governing body of 43 other Cheyenne chiefs to keep peace among the people. One unique principle observed by the Cheyenne is that if a problem arises, the entire governing body must be in agreeance on the issue and vote unanimously to allow a decision to carry.
Each year he attends ceremonies in teepees with the other chiefs to discuss matters of the tribe.
"I am 73 years old and I learn something new everytime I go down to the ceremonies."
Now that he is a native of the Medicine Lodge community, Charlie has begun sharing his heritage and ties to the area with the local youth. He tells about the significance of the Medicine Lodge Peace Treaty of 1867 from the view of his grandparents and how that treaty and others effected the Native American way of life.
Charlie has shared many of the ways of the Cheyenne as well as much of his time to the benefit of the community of Medicine Lodge and the Peace Treaty Pagent over the years.
He said that over the years, he has always wanted to get involved with youth and speaking about his heritage, but up until his time in Medicine Lodge it had not been possible.
Charlie is undoubtedly showered with questions about cowboys and Indians, but the most common question that he receives from youth is: "Are you a real Indian?". To which he has been known to answer "I donít know, they found me in Japan."
On a more serious note, the students are truly enlightened and impacted by what Charlie has to say to them.
"They get real quiet when it gets down to respect," he said.
"I think it kind of hits home to the kids."
Charlie says that he still has many goals for himself in the future, but views the decline in respect throughout our nation, as a whole, a major problem.
"I would like to see respect brought back to our youth," he said.
"Now days, they just wonít listen."
Charlie believes that as in the Cheyenne way, youth and individuals have to be willing to be taught by coming and asking for instruction before they can hope to learn. "I pray for respect to come back to the people so that everyone can get along and respect each other."