July 2005
Serving the community of the Comanche University of the 49 since 1997



Remembering Charles Chibitty

By Rick Powelson, Dean CU49

The nation, no the world, lost a treasure on July 21, 2005. For myself, I lost a friend and a person I had the privilege to call grandfather.

One thing that is special about being a Native American is the large extended family that we have. As any Indian can tell you, we have grandparents, uncles and aunts, sons and daughters, nieces and nephews, and parents we are not related to by blood. Though there is not a genetic relationship, these relationships are as real as any "real" family could ever be. It's interesting to me that many non-Indians do not understand this concept. Many is the time that I have to explain it to them. What a sad thing to not have more grandparents that you know what to do with. This is who Charles was to me.

Charles had a way of lighting up the scene of wherever he was. He had an infectious smile and always had a good joke ready for the telling. He also was constantly terrorizing me. One of the best examples of this was when he first met my ex-wife.

"Who is this, Rick?", he asked.

"Grandpa, I want you to meet my wife."

"This can't be your wife", he says. "Your wife has dark hair! This woman is a blond. Now who is this woman? Every time I see you you're with a different woman!"

The cold, icy stare from my wife could have started a new Ice Age. After many minutes of me stummering and stammering, Charles finally gave his impish laugh and got me out of trouble with her. Even though I heard about this incident for the remainder of my marriage, with her ire drawn at me, she still adored grandpa.

That was a Charles Chibitty hallmark - the ladies loved him. In 1995, I invited him to come to San Antonio to speak at the Randolph AFB Native American Heritage Celebration. He talked about the Code talkers and his experiences during World War II in full regalia to include his signature red face paint. It was amazing at the end of the night how many of the ladies in the audience had red paint smudges on their faces. Female voices saying "You're so cute" and the sound of kisses on his cheek echoed throughout the Officer's Club that evening. I just hope I have that gift someday.

Charles had more life in him in his elder years than most people in their 30s and 40s. Even in his 70s when most dancers have hung up their bells, grandpa could still be seen competing at powwows and we're not talking just straight dancing...I'm talking fancy dance. Not only did he compete, but he won. His teaching and advice helped me become a placing dancer. If his energy could have been tapped, America need not depend upon foreign oil. All we would need is Charles.

Grandpa wasn't just fun and games though. One thing about Charles was that when he spoke, he had his audience's full attention. It didn't matter whether he was one-on-one with someone or in front of a large crowd. When he made his monthly call to my house to let me know what he was up to and see how things were going for me, I never had much to say. I didn't need to. Listening to him speak kept me entertained for hours. In person or on the phone, it was the same. Hearing his stories, listening to his advice on my dancing, learning our ways from him...even one of Oklahoma's famous tornados could not have torn me away.

His presence commanded respect - respect he not only earned but deserved. His service in World War II along with his compatriots...

Roderick Red Elk
Simmons Parker
Larry Saupitty
Melvin Permansu
Willie Yackeshi
Willington Mihcoby
Morris Sunrise
Perry Noyebad
Ralph Wahnee
Haddon Codynah
Robert Holder
Albert Nahquaddy
Clifford Ototivo
Forrest Kassanavoid
Elgin Red Elk
Anthony Tabbytite

...should never be forgotten. I find it shameful that the United States has not done more to recognize these men who did so much to win the war in Europe. They were there before Pearl Harbor, passed the messages at Normandy, and were in instrumental in bringing about the fall of the Third Reich.

Charles was an amazing man. He was an elder of the nation and a war hero. To me has was even more than that. He was grandfather. I'll miss you Old Indian and look forward to the day when we meet again.


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