LT. COL. ERNEST CHILDERS, MEDAL OF HONOR RECIPIENT
OKLAHOMA CITY - Lt. Col. Ernest Childers, one of the last surviving
Oklahomans to receive the Medal of Honor passed away the morning of March
17 in Muskogee, Okla. He was 87.
Ernest Childers was born Feb. 1, 1918, in Broken Arrow, Okla., and raised
on a farm that was part of his father's original Creek tribal allotment. He
was the third of five sons and the best shot, having been taught by his
father, a Creek Nation lawyer and a great hunter.
He graduated from the Chilocco (Okla.) Indian School, where he boxed and
learned mechanics. He joined the Oklahoma National Guard in 1937 to earn
extra money, and his unit was activated during World War II.
Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry made remarks:
"Oklahoma has lost a genuine hero with the passing of Lt. Col. Ernest
Childers. As one of the last surviving Oklahomans to have earned the Medal
of Honor, this extraordinary man was the very embodiment of courage under
"His life was and is a true inspiration. A member of the Creek Nation who
grew up in Broken Arrow during the Great Depression, Ernest Childers
eventually joined the proud Thunderbirds that were the 45th Infantry
"It was during World War II that he performed an act of heroism that proved
to be nothing short of remarkable. In September of 1943, confronted by a
barrage of Nazi machine gun fire, then-First Lt. Childers and his eight men
charged a hill controlled by enemy forces. He suffered a broken foot in the
attack, but would not be deterred. Despite the pain, he advanced on the
German position, single-handedly killing two enemy snipers and attacking a
machine gun nest.
"Childers fought on. Crawling on his stomach, he managed to silence a
second machine gun nest and captured an enemy mortar observer. First Lt.
Childers received the Medal of Honor in April of 1944.
"In honor of his unwavering bravery and patriotism, I plan to issue an
executive order directing that all flags on state property be flown at
half-staff on the day of Lt. Col. Childers' funeral.
"On behalf of all Oklahomans, I extend condolences to the family and
friends of Ernest Childers. Our thoughts and prayers are also with the
courageous Oklahomans who serve in the military and have placed themselves
in harm's way, ensuring that the proud legacy of Ernest Childers lives on."
MYRA SOHAPPY, STAUNCH DEFENDER OF TREATY FISHING RIGHTS
By Jean Johnson
YAKAMA NATION, Wash. - Myra Sohappy, who passed away at age 79 on March 25
due to complications from a fall, was well-connected and a luminary in her
own right. After turbulent events on the Columbia River jailed her
fishing-rights activist husband David Sr. and son David Jr., she flew to
Switzerland to testify before the United Nation's Commission on Human
According to Tom Keefe, a Spokane attorney who has long been involved in
tribal affairs and defended the Sohappys in the 1970s, "she was just
totally unyielding in her view that treaty rights were bigger than federal
law, state law, and tribal laws that were passed in the 20th century. [Her
passing marks] the end of an era."
Even though she could not read or write, Myra knew her treaty law. And
although the jury that convicted her husband and son for selling salmon
illegally acquitted them, "she was described as the most dangerous member
of the conspiracy."
Through thick and thin, Myra supported her husband, who was the leader of
the Wanapum, or River People, Band of the Yakama Indian Nation. In the
1960s, after the family insisted on fishing at 'usual and accustomed
places,' federal agents brought charges against David Sr. in 1969.
The event served as a catalyst to the Boldt decision of 1974 in which the
treaty's "fair share" language was interpreted as 50 percent of the fish in
the river belonged to the tribes. Further, during the fallout from the
Boldt decision in 1983 when a federal "Salmonscam" convicted the Sohappys
of selling salmon out of season to undercover agents, Myra kept her eyes on
the prize. When asked what she planned to tell the Human Rights Commission
at the UN, she said "I'm going to tell them the truth."
Myra stayed true to her culture and continued to dry and smoke fish at the
family's home on the Columbia at Cook's Landing until she suffered a stroke
a few years ago. Even after she couldn't get around as well, she still
loved to be by the river where she raised her family, David Jr. said.
After a dressing service and a weekend of Longhouse ceremonies, Myra was
laid to rest before sunrise on March 28 at the Toppenish Creek Cemetery.
She is survived by three daughters and four sons. David Sr. passed away in
LILLIAN SEBASTIAN, EASTERN PEQUOT'S ELDEST MEMBER
MASHANTUCKET, Conn. - The Eastern Pequot Tribal Nation mourns the passing
of its eldest member, Lillian Agnetta Sebastian, who joined the Creator
March 28. The tribe recently honored Lillian as she celebrated her 99th
birthday with congratulatory letters from Connecticut's congressional
delegation and a proclamation from Gov. M. Jodi Rell naming her birthday
"Lillian Sebastian Day" in the state.
Born Jan. 13, 1906 to Arthur and Bettie Robert Sebastian, Lillian was the
second of nine children and the oldest girl. Her family moved to Mystic,
Conn. when she was a child and she and her siblings attended Mystic
Academy. Over her lifetime, her family came to recognize her as their
matriarch and the tribe revered her as an elder. Lillian attended the
tribe's Fourth Sunday Meetings in the early 1900s, joining her extended
family at gatherings often held at her aunt's home in Mystic.
Lillian made her own way in life. She absorbed her parents' strong work
ethic; as a child she was an early entrepreneur, earning 25 cents an hour
at her first jobs picking strawberries and blueberries.
Lillian left home to work with various families in New York and
Pennsylvania. But with four brothers serving overseas during World War II,
Lillian returned to Mystic and a job at Electric Boat. She became a welder
and spent four years in the "Victory Yard" climbing in and out of ballast
tanks, welding seams so the tanks could be used in submarines.
When the war ended Lillian started her own catering business. She was so
successful and built up such a loyal following that devoted customers were
still calling her to bake for them on holidays when she was 98.
In the 1970s, Lillian applied for permission from the state of Connecticut
to live on the Eastern Pequot Reservation. Based on her heritage and family
line, the state agreed that as an Eastern Pequot she was entitled to a home
on one of this country's oldest continuously-occupied Indian reservations.
An active member of the Elder's Council of the Eastern Pequot Tribal
Nation, Lillian never missed a pow wow and only very rare illnesses kept
her from tribal and elder's meetings. Until her final, brief sickness,
Lillian practiced yoga, rode an exercise bicycle, worked around the house
and planted a garden every year.
Tribal members regularly sought Lillian's advice and valued her opinions
and views on their most important issues. She was a living symbol of the
tribe's historic roots in southeastern Connecticut and a moral guide for