Once again I hope this quarter’s newsletter finds all doing well and having a great year. As always things begin to really pick up this time of year here at the tribal headquarters and summer will be upon us before we know it.
Our new addition to the Bearskin Healthcare and Wellness Center is just days away from completion and is going to be a great addition to our current facilities. It will allow us to further expand our fitness and wellness programs for all ages and will be a great benefit to the surrounding community. We will be planning a grand opening sometime early this summer. I welcome everyone that has the opportunity to stop by for a tour of the facility when you are in the area.
As many of you may now know Chief Bearskin has announced his retirement effective May 31st of this year. He has served the Wyandotte Nation as Chief for the past 28 years. During his 28 years of service his accomplishments are far too numerous to list in the short amount of space that is allowed for this article. His influence has not only been felt by our Nation, but throughout the state of Oklahoma and across the United States. He has been a loyal and fierce advocate of tribal sovereignty and rights for not only the Wyandotte Nation, but for all tribes across this great nation. During the 1980’s and 90’s no one was more outspoken than Chief Bearskin when it came to the rights of Indian tribes to govern themselves and break away from the years of control and mismanagement by the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Indian Health Service. Under his leadership the Wyandotte Nation became one of the first small tribes to sign a compact with the federal government under the Indian Self Determination and Education Act to govern ourselves and break away from the federal bureaucracies. These are just a few of the things that Chief was so passionate about during his time as the leader of the Wyandotte Nation.
Personally, Chief Bearskin is my mentor, leader and most of all he is my friend. Anyone that knows Chief will always tell you that he always treated everyone the same, but always had a way of making you feel like you were the most important. For someone who was viewed as a fierce and stern leader, you will never find a more caring and compassionate person than Chief Bearskin. He is a father figure to every employee and grandpa to all of our children. I have often told people that Chief has very seldom given me spoken advice, but I learned every day from him just by his actions and the way he treated others. I read a quote one time that basically said “the key to success is not worrying about who is going to get the credit” and that is how Chief has lead the past 28 years, he always emphasized the “we” and never the “I”. I have had many people ask me how I am going to fill Chief Bearskin’s shoes and I tell them you don’t fill the shoes of man like Chief Leaford Bearskin, but you have them bronzed and put them high upon a shelf and spend the rest of your life trying to live up to them.
According to our Constitution and By-laws I will assume the position of Chief on June 1st and will finish out Chief Bearskin’s current term. I humbly ask for your prayers and support as I take on the responsibilities of Chief of the Wyandotte Nation.