TRIBUTE TO A HERO
By Karen Shade World Staff Writer
The Tulsa Library Trust and Tulsa City-County Library American Indian
Resource Library will start a new tradition March 6 with the last of the
Comanche code talkers.
The resource center's American Indian Festival of Words will inaugurate
the Circle of Honor. World War II Comanche code talker, champion powwow
dancer and Tulsa resident Charles Chibitty will be the first inductee.
"You don't know how it makes you feel when somebody wants to honor you,"
Chibitty said. "They really made me feel good."
The festival is sponsored by the Tulsa City-County Library American
Indian Resource Center, the Tulsa Library Trust, the Maxine and Jack
Zarrow Family Foundation, Cherokee Builders, Vickie Summers Mason and
the Oklahoma Arts Council.
Indian writers have been honored during the festival since 2001 with the
American Indian Author Award, said Johnna Girod, coordinator of American
Indian Resource Center.
The Circle of Honor award was created to recognize individuals who have
performed acts in the face of adversity and who have maintained the
American Indian culture for future generations.
"The community wanted to honor an elder, too (in addition to writers),"
Sixteen members of the Tulsa City-County Library American Indian
Resource Center Advisory Committee (which gives the library input on
collection development) select Circle inductees.
The committee includes community volunteers, members of several Indian
tribes, people active in American Indian affairs and library trust
personnel, Girod said.
Chibitty, 82, was a natural choice for the first inductee, she said.
"It's very well-known in the Tulsa Community that he goes as far back as
helping to start ... the powwow at Mohawk Park, and it's well-known that
he was a World War II Comanche Code talker," Girod said.
"I'm the last one living out of 17 (code talkers)," Chibitty said.
He is an elder of his tribe with many stories to share about his time as
an infantry soldier and code talker speaking in his native language.
"They could not break the Navajo (language) in the Pacific, and they
could not break the Comanche in Europe," he said.
Code talkers used their tribes' languages to translate communications
between military units in battle. Enemies who had intercepted and
cracked military codes for years could not decipher the Comanche or
Navajo languages. (SEE
ARTICLE-CODE TALKERS-WIND SPEAKERS)
Born in 1921 in Lawton, Chibitty attended Haskell Indian School in
Lawrence, Kan., before he joined the U.S. Army. He was in the army from
1941-45, he said.
Chibitty was named a Knight of the National Order of Merit by the French
government in 1989, and in 1999, was honored at the Pentagon for his
military contribution. The Washington, D.C., ceremony was bittersweet.
"It makes me feel good even though it took so long. My only regret is
that they couldn't have done it early enough while my comrades were
living so they could enjoy it," Chibitty said.
When he gives public addresses, Chibitty always names the other Comanche
Chibitty also helped start an annual powwow event in Mohawk Park in the
mid-1960s. He used to dance competitively as a fancy and straight
dancer, but these days he is more likely to be found in the gourd
Chibitty will receive a bronze medallion for his induction into the
festival Circle of Honor along with a $5,000 honorarium.
The honor will be given in even-numbered years while the festival will
present the American Indian Author Award during odd-numbered years,