Born and raised on Oklahoma's Wyandotte Indian Reservation, Leaford Bearskin had always wanted to fly, and he eventually got his chance with the Jolly Rogers. He had entered the service immediately following his graduation from high school in 1939 and had been assigned to Alaska as a crew chief. After World War II broke out, Bearskin entered flying cadet school, received his pilot wings and entered heavy bombardment training.

Once he joined the Jolly Rogers, he was assigned to New Guinea as an Aircraft Commander and, with his crew and ship (which was dubbed Big Chief), Bearskin flew 46 combat missions. Some of the missions were incredibly dangerous. He later recalled that during one raid over Wewak, the flak was so thick that "it looked like you could walk on it."

After the war, Bearskin had a career as an Air Force officer, retiring in 1960 with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. For the next 19 years he served in the civil service capacity before retiring in 1979 and moving back to his native Wyandotte, Oklahoma with his wife, Barbara Cannon Bearskin.

In September of 1983 Bearskin was elected Big Chief when the Wyandotte Tribe of Oklahoma elected him Chief of their tribe. He served as Chief until 2011 and led his tribe to become financially self-sufficient. He also made considerable improvement in the tribe's health care, education, adult services, employment and emergency services.

Chief Bearskin passed away on November 9, 2012.

Click here to hear "Big Chief":


© 2019 Electric Quilt Music. All rights reserved.