Newton Lamar

Newton Lamar (November 12, 1928-September 6, 1989) was elected as President of the Wichita and Affiliated Tribes from July 1974-July 1978; July 1978-July 1982; and July 1982-July 1986.

(This information below was compiled by his wife, Catherine Lamar, for the 2008 Wichita Annual Dance)program)

Mr. Newton Lamar was born November 12, 1928, southeast of Gracemont, Okla., on November 12, 1928. He was reared by his full-blood grandparents, Walter and Hushseah Lamar. He spoke the Wichita language fluently and was also cognizant of tribal traditions and customs. Newton attended Riverside Indian School until his enlistment in the Air Force in 1946 and served during the duration of World War II and the Korean Conflict. He was with the Strategic Air Command as a Staff Sergeant, which was a very prestigious branch of the Air Force at that time. After his discharge from the armed forces, he attended Oklahoma A&M-Okmulgee, Okla., and later the Police Academy at the University of Wyoming, where in the late 1960’s he attained he highest composite score to that date.

Newton was in field of Law Enforcement from 1956 to January 1965 and worked in Montana, Wyoming and New Mexico. He accepted a position with the Navajo Tribe as their Public Relations director, which afforded him valuable experiences and opportunities. His goal had always been to return to Oklahoma where he could be involved with his tribe. He moved to Anadarko, Oklahoma in January 1971 along with his family. His time was devoted and focused on tribal business. He was elected Vice-President of the Wichita Tribe in 1972 and then President in 1974. He held the office until 1987. During his tenure, he accomplished much.

In 1973, Newton and Myles Stephenson negotiated with the Caddo and Delaware Tribes for the ten acres that is now the Wichita Tribal Park. The land was cleared, and the first structure was the Tribal Activity Building, which was constructed with donations and fund-raising events by the Wichita Service Club. Helen Stephenson was President at the time. The labor was all by volunteers-Myles Stephenson, Newton and Walter Lamar, Ike Gabbard, Jo-Jo Lane, “Odie” Standing, Charles Stephenson, Virgil Swift, Jack Sheyahshe, Kenneth Stephenson, Sy Luther, Ernie Ross, “Bunny” Ross and others. Frankie Galindo was Newton’s right-hand man. The dance arbor was erected, and the first Wichita Annual Dance was in 1975, with Jo-Jo Lane and Myles Stephenson as the coordinators. The Activity Building and Arbor were blessed with many prayers-Max Thomas, Ethel Wheeler, Flora Gabbard, Helen Querdibitty, Mae Davis, Vangie and Evelyn French, Eunice Swift and daughters Vera, Armalene and Novalene, Bertha Provost, Ella Stephenson, George and Amelia Bates, Emma Curleychief and others. There was much enthusiasm and pride among the tribal members, because they had their own place to gather for Thanksgiving, Christmas, birthday celebrations, pow-wows and dances to honor servicemen when they returned home. In 1978, the Administration Building was built with federal grants obtained through Newton’s efforts.

Newton assisted with pictures and information to W.W. Newcomb, who wrote the bookThe People Called Wichita, published in July 1976. He asked by the editor, John Griffin, to autograph 1500 copies. A commemorative medallion was included, and Newton assisted with the design. It is no longer produced by the U.S. Mint.

Newton was instrumental in the formulation of WCD Enterprises along with other Wichita tribal members and the Caddo and Delaware tribes. WCD was established for economic development purposes. Other than his role as President of the Wichita Tribe, he was employed as the executive director of the WCD enterprises from 1974-1977. An important development was the construction of the large office building, which was leased to the Bureau of Indian Affairs and was then the Area office. Funding for this was through the Office of Economic Development and ONEP in Washington, D.C. It entailed much effort to receive these grants, but no loan was needed for construction. It was the first endeavor in this area, but then other tribes followed suit. It was his plan and vision to have a hotel, convention center, grocery store and restaurant, but it did not become a reality after he was no longer the executive director.

The most important accomplishment was his involvement and work with the Wichita Claim. When he became Vice-President of the Wichita Tribe in 1972 and President in 1974, he began researching and learned that the Wichita Tribe did not file its claim for lands taken before August 13, 1951, which was the cut-off date. The only way they could file was to have a law enacted by the U.S. Congress.

Newton, Myles Stephenson and other tribal officials were in touch with Omer Luellen, an attorney in Hinton, Okla., and he agreed to prepare legislation authorizing the Wichita and Affiliated Tribes to file with the Indian Claim Commission for taking of its lands-81,000,000 acres in Oklahoma, Kansas and Texas. A bill was introduced into the U.S. Congress in 1977 by Senator Dewey Bartlett of Oklahoma and Congressman Tom Steed of Oklahoma, giving jurisdiction to hear the Claims of the Wichita Tribe. It was then that Newton Lamar, Myles Stephenson and other tribal members such as Frank Miller and Newton Rose, along with their attorney John Montgomery, lobbied Congressmen, Senators and other important officials. Newton wore out a pair of shoes walking the halls of Congress lobbying for the Wichita to have their day in court.

The bill was passed in March 21, 1978 as Public Law 95-247. Newton testified in person before both the Senate and House of Representatives. The final law was signed by President Carter. The bill gave jurisdiction to the Court of Indian Claims Commission to hear and adjudicate the claim of the Wichita and Affiliated Tribes against the U.S. government. This petition was filed in July 1978 by attorney John Montgomery and started the judicial process. The following are quotes from a letter written to Newton by attorney Montgomery on July 10, 1978:

“The passage of the law P.L. 95-247 on March 21, 1978 was a landmark in the Indian claims law. The Wichita Tribe became the first tribe to be allowed to file a new land claim in twenty-seven years. In discussing our success with Congressmen, Senators, BIA officials and Justice Department attorneys, they all credit the personal appearance of you and other tribal members at the Congressional hearings and private meetings as a major reason for the passage the new law. The manner in which you conducted your presentations and representing the Tribe was outstanding and very critical to our success. As you know we made a new Indian law with our legislation-a difficult thing to do in Washington with the present backlash.”

After this petition to the Indian Court of Claims was filed, it required much work in collecting and explaining the evidence with testimonies from tribal members, and particularly expert witness W.W. Newcomb. It was a tough trial. It was settled, and appropriations were made by the U.S. government. A per-capita was distributed for the aboriginal claim to the enrolled Wichita Tribal members in June 1986, and those under age eighteen had his or her per-capita deposited in the IIM accounts. Twenty percent of the claim was set aside for Wichita Tribal Operations.

There were no salaries for the tribal officials during this period, so what Newton accomplished was more or less a volunteer effort. The tribe had a small budget, but officials were only allowed travel funds.

In 1983, Newton Lamar, Roger Jourdain of the Red Lake Ojibwa in Minnesota and Wendell Chino of the Mescalero Apache in New Mexico were considered the three most outstanding tribal chairmen in the U.S. He was not only known on the local level but was well respected on the national level. He was very vocal in advocating for the rights of Indian people, particularly with the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Indian Health Service and was most knowledgeable about land, oil and gas. During his tenure as a Tribal Official, he served as an Area Vice-President of the National Congress of American Indians, President of the National Chairmen’s Association, Board of Directors for ASCOG in Oklahoma, executive board member of the Oklahoma Area Health Advisory Board for thirty-six tribes, and Chairman of the United Tribes of Western Oklahoma and Kansas that included twenty-three tribes. Newton Lamar was a man of vision and determination. He was also known as an eloquent public speaker.

He is survived by his wife, Catherine; children, Walter of Washington, D.C., Marsha of Washington state, and Judith and Regina of Anadarko; his grandchildren Wasey, Cody, Krisha, Mikayla, Kateri, Jon, Levi, Jacey, and Rocke; two great-grandchildren, Shaniah and Mike; sisters Doris, Tisha and Marjorie. He was survived by his mother, Mae Davis, until 1997. Newton Lamar passed from this life September 6, 1989.