Youngdeer named EBCI’s Beloved Man
Former Principal Chief Robert S. Youngdeer, seated, receives the Chapel of the Four Chaplains Legion of Honor Bronze Medallion from Marine Corps League Foundation President Gregory Hunt in October. Youngdeer has been given the title of Beloved Man of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. SCOTT MCKIE B.P./CHEROKEE ONE FEATHER
CHEROKEE, N.C. – Robert S. Youngdeer, the former Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians principal chief, has served the EBCI and the United States for decades. Because of his sacrifices and service, Youngdeer was recently bestowed the title of Beloved Man, becoming only the second person to receive such a designation since the early 1800s.
The EBCI Tribal Council bestowed the title onto Youngdeer on Jan. 4. The resolution, submitted by the Steve Youngdeer American Legion Post 143, passed unanimously. It reads in part: “Those who enjoy the freedom for which this brother paid such a high price, as he laid face 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.”
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. Recently, he was awarded the Chapel of the Four Chaplains Legion of Honor Bronze Medallion from Gregory Hunt, Marine Corps League Foundation president.
He served as EBCI principal chief from 1983-87 and later penned his memoirs titled “The Memoirs of Robert Youngdeer: Marine, Chief, and Proud American.”
Lew Harding, Post 143 Commander, said, “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.”
He added that the resolution was submitted with Post 143’s unanimous approval.
“We feel that it would be very appropriate for this dear brother, who is still with us, to be so designated,” he said.
Youngdeer was unable to attend, but his son, Merritt Youngdeer, spoke.
“I want to thank you very much for this honor for my dad,” Merritt said. “I couldn’t keep it back from sharing with him. It made him very happy. He’s not able to get around that well anymore, and your days get sort of long when you’re in your easy chair, and its cold, and then he hears some news like this and it makes him feel good.”
Merritt said his father is a “proud American” and proud citizen of his tribe and that it is “a very wonderful honor to bestow upon him.”
Russell Townsend, EBCI tribal historic preservation officer, gave a history of the title of Beloved Man in a previous One Feather article.
“In 1785 (Treaty of Hopewell), Benjamin Hawkins recorded for Andrew Pickins that the Cherokee showed up in great numbers with their women and children, and they allowed their Beloved Men and Women to speak. Among those Beloved Men and Women who spoke were Corntassel, or Longtassel, and Nancy Ward, Beloved Woman. So, we know in 1785 that the term was used, and it was used throughout the 1700s,” Townsend said.
Jerry Wolfe, a fluent speaker and traditionalist who served in the U.S. Navy in World War II, was given the title of Beloved Man in 2013. Barbara Duncan, Museum of the Cherokee Indian education director, said the previous recorded instance she could find of a Beloved Man was Little Turkey who died in 1801.
– REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION