Chief Bearskin Receives Federal Recognition

Department of the Air Force Presents The Outstanding Civilian Career Service Award To Leaford Bearskin

The OCCS award is designed to recognize and individual at the time of retirement who has demonstrated significant accomplishments, leadership, and unusual competence, and significant impact upon the Air Force mission throughout the employee’s career. This award did not exist when Chief Bearskin retired in 1979; however, using this award at this time to recognize his career contributions will re-emphasize the Air Force’s appreciation for a job well done.

Chief Bearskin retired on 30 Jun 79 with over 18 years of civilian service. Based on Chief Bearskin’s service during those 18 years, we are recommending he receives the OCCS award. Chief Bearskin was an exemplary employee who truly put service before self.

The 138 Fighter Wing, Tulsa Air National Guard Base hosted Lieutenant General Robert Brady, Deputy Chief of Staff, Personnel, who arrived in Tulsa from Washington DC on 8 September 2006 to present an award to the Chief of the Wyandotte Nation, Leaford Bearskin. Brady proceeded to Wyandotte, Oklahoma to present Bearskin with the prestigious Outstanding Civilian Career Service Award for his more than 19 years of civil service after retiring from the United States Air Force.

Bearskin was born on September 11, 1921, on his parents’ allotment land in northeast Oklahoma. He was raised and educated in the Wyandotte area, graduating from high school in 1939. In high school Bearskin had become fascinated with airplanes and had fostered a secret desire to be a pilot. So it was no surprise that immediately following graduation he entered the military service, serving a long and distinguished career of 21 years.

Bearskin served in World War II as a crew chief Aircraft Commander/B-24 Liberator Bomber flying over 46 missions and provided support for the Berlin Airlift flying 29 missions. He also served in Asiatic Pacific and Korea. He received numerous honors for his many assignments to include: Distinguished Flying Cross; World War II Victory Medal; Presidential Unit Citation; Medal for Humane Action; Asiatic Pacific Campaign (w/4 major battle stars); American Campaign Medal; American Defense Service Medal (one bronze star); National Defense Medal; Korean Service Medal; United Nations Service Medal.

In 1960, Bearskin retired as Lieutenant Colonel. Before he retired, he was offered a job in civil service at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, as Chief of the Vehicle and Aerospace Ground Equipment Branch of the 1st Missile Division. Bearskin accepted that position and several more promotions before retiring as the Executive Officer to the Director of Operations, Headquarters 15th Air Force in 1979.

He and his wife of 31 years, Barbara Cannon Bearskin, moved to his native Wyandotte, where they built their retirement home on Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees. He is the father of two children and has six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

In September 1983 he was elected Chief of the Wyandotte Nation where he has rededicated all efforts to the objective of better service to his people. He has steadily served in the capacity of Chief and is currently in his 23rd year of service to the tribe and community. Bearskin has made vast improvements in health care, education, employment, adult and emergency services, culture, and heritage. He also led his people into various financial ventures that have made the tribe self sufficient. As a result of his outstanding leadership as Chief, Bearskin has received several community awards: Indian Achievement Award (Center for the History of the American Indian, Chicago); Indian of the Year (Chicago); Outstanding Alumnus (Wyandotte Alumni Association); Outstanding Elder for Northeastern Oklahoma; Betsy D. Smith Award, Oklahoma Minority Aging, 2000; American Red Cross Everyday Hero Award, 2000; Medal of Honor, National Society, Daughters of the American Revolution.

The National Society Daughters of the American Revolution were pleased to bestow the NSDAR Medal of Honor to Chief Bearskin on September 6, 1997. This award is reserved for a native born American who epitomizes the DAR motto of “God, Home and Country” by virtue of their actions and deeds. Bearskin’s unfailing loyalty, leadership, trustworthiness, patriotism, and service to his fellow man speaks for itself. He has provided service to his people, country, and community, above and beyond the call of duty.

The opening to Chief Bearskins Prayer, “Oh Great Spirit, I am in need of your eyes, your voice, your heart, and your wisdom. My people have chosen me to lead them. Show me the way, Great One, so that I may lead properly and wisely,” has been answered as his historic life depicts.

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