Leaford Bearskin was born September 11, 1921, on his parents allotment land, in northeast Oklahoma. He was reared and educated in the Wyandotte, Oklahoma area, graduating from High School in 1939. Immediately following graduation, he entered military service and made it a lifetime career.
After basic training, he was first assigned to Alaska, as a crew chief in World War II. He then entered flying cadet school and, after receiving his pilot wings entered heavy bombardment training. He was sent to New Guinea as an Aircraft commander on a B-24 Liberator Bomber. Altogether, he flew 46 combat missions in heavy bombers.
His next assignment, was to train heavy bomber crews in various phases of warfare, before going to Japan as a ground force officer. He was a squadron commander, Director of Materiel and Deputy commander at a fighter base in Georgia. From this base, he participated in the first flight of jet fighter aircraft across the Pacific. He was Air Base Group Commander in support of this flight.
After graduating from a Staff Logistics Course at the Air University, Montgomery, Alabama, he was assigned to a Squadron Commander’s position in Korea. His next assignment was as Squadron Commander and Assistant Headquarters Commandant at Strategic Air command Headquarters, Omaha, Nebraska, with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. He retired from the Air Force at Omaha in 1960.
After retirement from the Air Force, he began his second career in Federal Civil Service, as Chief, Vehicle and Aerospace Ground Equipment in the First Strategic Aerospace Division at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. There, he was responsible for the supervision of the utilization and maintenance of automotive equipment and for testing, monitoring, and analyzing ground handling equipment for the Atlas, Titan, and Minuteman missile weapons systems.
Later he moved to March AFB, California, as Chief, Traffic Management Branch, Directorate of Transportation, Headquarters 15th Air Force. With his promotion to Deputy Director, as a GS-13, he was responsible for the monitoring and development of transportation systems in support of nineteen Air Force bases throughout the western United States.
In 1969, he was promoted to Deputy Director, Directorate of Logistic Plans in the same headquarters. He was second in charge of a plans organization which supervised the planning and operation of materiel requirements to support war plans for bomber and missile weapons systems located throughout the western states and in several overseas locations.
In 1970, he was assigned as Executive Officer to the Director of Operations, Headquarters Fifteenth Air Force. He was the Administrative Manager for seven major directorates within the Fifteenth Air Force headquarters, and nineteen Air Force bases.
He retired from Federal Civil Service in 1979, having served forty-one years in government service. He and his wife, Barbara Cannon Bearskin, moved to his native Wyandotte, Oklahoma, where they built their retirement home on Grand Lake 0′ the Cherokees. He is the father two children and has six grandchildren.
In September 1983, he was elected Chief of the Wyandotte Nation, where he has rededicated all efforts to the objective of better service to his people. He has steadily served in the capacity of Chief and is currently in his twenty-third year of service to the tribe and community. Vast improvements, in health care, education, adult services, employment, emergency services, culture and heritage, have resulted from his efforts. He has led his people into various financial ventures that have made the tribe self sufficient.
Accomplishments as Chief of the Wyandotte Nation:
1) Spearheaded Settlement of Wyandotte claims for 5.7 million dollars with U.S. government (Ohio Tribal Land Sales in 1842)
2) Rewrote Tribal Constitution – Passed through BIA in 18 months, a record
3) Directed the return of Wyandotte offices to Tribal Land
4) Obtained grant for convenience store complex (First Economic development project for Wyandottes)
5) Implemented the (now standard) Wyandotte Education Support
6) Instituted Tribal Pre-School Program (noted best in USA 1994)
7) Instituted Various Large Scale Senior Citizens Programs
8) Instituted Inter-tribal Health Care and Site
9) Instituted Library accessible for Nation; Cultural and Historical Center
10) Participated in forming Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College Indian Heritage Program in Native American Studies (contributed to language portion)
11) Cooperated with and supported the Daughters of the American Revolution Historical Marking of the original Wyandot Mission and Seneca Indian School
12) Revived the practice of Tribal Pow-Wows
13) Helped with Nation’s reorganization into seven major departments – 1994.
14) Instituted Nation’s Petroleum Program
15) Travels extensively speaking and spreading word of the Wyandottes, their culture and concerns.
16) Currently working on reclaiming Wyandotte Language (ongoing)
17) Currently leading the Wyandotte Nation in establishing an Indian Gaming complex in Wyandotte, Ottawa County, Oklahoma
1) Indian Achievement Award (Center for the History of the American Indian, Chicago)
2) Indian of the Year (Chicago)
3) Outstanding Alumnus (Wyandotte Alumni Association)
4) Helped bring Self-governance to Wyandottes.
5) Outstanding Elder for Northeastern Oklahoma
6) Medal of Honor, National Society, Daughters of the American Revolution Active personal and Tribal Support: Wyandotte Livestock Booster Club Restoration of Eastern Michigan University Mascot (Huron) Various Daughters of the American Revolution Projects Ottawa County Law Enforcement Wyandotte City Police and Fire Departments Local Flood Relief and Control Oklahoma City Bombing Benefit Pow-Wow Ottawa County Multi-jurisdictional Drug Task Force Many local Native American Artisans and Craftsman
A gourd dancer, Chief Bearskin wears a red sash around his waist, knotted on the left side, which is said to mean that he has taken the life of an enemy, in battle.