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TRIBUTE TO A HERO
By Karen Shade World Staff Writer
2/25/2004

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)," Girod said.

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 code talkers.

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 dancers' circle.

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, Girod said.

 
**Charles Chibitty, the last surviving Comanche Code Talker Died July 20, 2005.
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