July 21st, 2011 Last Updated on: November 26th, 2015
The Legacy of Ray Little Turtle
By Kay Oxendine
On Monday, January 10, 2011, Ray Little Turtle crossed over to the spirit world. While his loss is a great one for not just Native America, I am just thrilled at the notion that I had a chance to really know this man at all, whom a lot of folks called uncle. He made an impact on my life in many ways, and I smile as i think of him now.
You see, Ray wasn't afraid to go to the front line for what he believed in. He wasn't afraid to walk right up to who he needed to proclaim a wrong had happened. He wasn't afraid to stand up for what he believed. He wasn't afraid to fight. He wasn't afraid to be silent. All of these traits were shown when he returned from the Vietnam War as a green beret and having earned six purple hearts. Not one, not two, but six.
Ray made a lot of us better Indians. He never quite gave the distinction that any tribe was better than another, but just told us all that it was a good day to be an Indian. He reiterated this over and over again when he sat in front of the mic at a pow-wow, telling us all that it was a good day to be an Indian. And he not only spoke these words, he showed us thru his leadership, always aware of the educational value his words he
ld. He made sure that all Indian people felt good at pow-wows, but also ensured that his words were heard to the learning audience.
Having Ray cross over to the spirit world is just part of his journey. His physical presence will indeed be missed, and the work he completed here on earth will continue to be seen at every pow-wow we go to, every tribal meeting that Indian people attend, every committee and every gathering. You see, Ray taught a lot of folks how to be an Indian, without shame or prejudice. And you will hear it over and over again; that Ray Little Turtle was Indian, long before being Indian was cool.
To honor him, at this funeral on Saturday, January 15, 2011, the Lumbee Tribe read a proclamation that announced January 15 as Ray Little Turtle day.
Here is the proclamation that was read that day:
Whereas, Mr. Ray Little Turtle was a member of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina and from Pembroke, and;
Whereas, Mr. Ray Little Turtle was the eldest son of Mr. Raymond “Mr. Pete” spotted turtle and Mrs. Estelle Clark, and was married to Mrs. Kit Little Turtle, and;
Whereas, Mr. Ray Little Turtle was taught Lumbee Culture through his family, as his grandfather was a member of the Red Man's Lodge and passed on those ideas and customs, and;
Whereas, Mr. Ray Little Turtle demonstrated the qualities of a warrior early in life, as he was a participant in the battle of Hayes Pond in 1958 when Lumbee Warriors famously chased the Ku Klux Klan out of Robeson County.
Whereas, Mr. Ray Little Turtle joined the United States Army at the age of 16 and was a decorated war hero who returned home as a Green Beret with six Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star for his distinguished and meritorious service, and;
Whereas, Mr. Ray Little Turtle upon his return home from service, was instrumental in the cultural re-awakening in the American Indian traditions taking place across Indian Country, particularly the East Coast, and;
Whereas, Mr. Ray Little Turtle began serving his people during this revival as a Master of Ceremonies and emcee for various powwows across the East Coast, and;
Whereas, Mr. Ray Little Turtle used the opportunity to serve as emcee as occasion to function as a liaison between the American Indian Communities represented and those who were there to learn, and;
Whereas, Mr. Ray Little Turtle understood and worked tirelessly as a Master of Ceremonies and an emcee at powwows, being there to ensure that dancers and drummers alike enjoyed the festivities, and remembering they were there for the people and the higher ideas that he had been taught as a child, and;
Whereas, Mr. Ray Little Turtle in addition to his duties as an emcee and cultural liaison, Mr. Littleturtle developed his skills as a local historian and advocate for the Lumbee People, and;
Whereas, Mr. Ray Little Turtle earned numerous appointments due to his advocacy, such as a Representative for the National Congress of the American Indian, Board Member of Legal Aid of North Carolina, a member of the North Carolina Commission of Indian affairs, where he served a Cultural and Religion Chair, and election to the Tribal Council of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina, representing tribal district 7, and;
Now, therefore be it proclaimed, by the Chairman of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina that the Honorable Ray Little Turtle was more than the voice of the powwow, he was a voice of the people, and while that voice may be silent, it continues to be heard by those whom he taught and who took the time to listen.
[ad#rectangle]Be it further proclaimed, by the Chairman of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina that the Honorable Ray Little Turtle is honored for these and his other endeavors to improve and enrich the lives of the Lumbee People, now and for future generations, and while his name has been etched in the wall of honor at the Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian, it has also been etched on the hearts of the Lumbee People.
Be it finally proclaimed by the Chairman of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina that the 15th day of January, 2011 is Mr. Ray Little Turtle day in the land of the Lumbee.
That was just one proclamation and honor that was read at his funeral. The Governor of NC took time to also send a letter of condolence that was read by Commissioner of Indian Affairs, Gregory Richardson, and the Prison System of NC also read a proclamation for Ray Little Turtle.
Ray touched many people, from all walks of life and backgrounds. But anyone who knew him knew where his heart lay: it lay at the feet of his Indian people, whom he was so proud to be a part of. No matter where he worked, travelled, visited, he made sure that everyone knew he was native. He was this way until the day he crossed over.
So with this I say rest well, Uncle. Know that your time on earth was not in vain. Thank you for your time, your dedication to the Indian People, and your love of your culture. Job well done.
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