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Local Apache Native American asking for national holiday
‘The Time is Now'
“Ochik-say” — The Time is Now — says Chee-ko, a local resident who is collecting signatures to add a national Native American holiday to the calendar.
Chee-ko, who does not have a last name and is a local Native American of the Mescalero tribe from New Mexico, said it is something he has been thinking about for a long time.
“About 40 years ago I had a vision of this but I didn’t do anything about it. The idea for this always pops up right before Columbus Day, for obvious reasons, and finally, after thinking about it for years, I decided to do something about it,” Chee-ko said. “I thought, ‘Why not?’ It’s time. Ochik-say. The time is now.”
For the past couple of weeks, Chee-ko has been approaching people with one simple yes-or-no question.
As of Wednesday, Chee-ko had collected an approximate 1,000 signatures from Native Americans from the Mescalero, Yokut, Semenal, Apache, Chumash, Colville, Tule River, Sioux, Shoshone, and Kiowa tribes as well as non Native Americans.
“I ask them ‘Do you want a Native American holiday?’” he said. “This isn’t just for Native Americans, it’s for everyone.”
And so far, no one has said no, he said.
His daughter, Dr. Tobrina Goldbaum of Chicago, is simultaneously collecting signatures through her medical office and from various members of different tribes in the Wisconsin area.
Locally, Chee-ko said he has been invited to the Tule River Reservation to speak with the veterans and said he has spoken with the tribal council members at the Tule River Reservation.
But Dan Hackey, public relations officer for the Tule River Tribe, said he had not heard anything about it when asked on Thursday.
Two Tule River Tribal members said they did not know enough to comment and other tribal officers were not available for comment.
In the meantime, Chee-ko is moving forward and plans to have a table at Springville’s Apple Festival to work on obtaining more signatures.
But that is just the beginning of his dream.
“My daughter is working with people from the National American Museum in Washington D.C.,” he said. “It’s part of making history.”
Chee-ko and his daughter plan on traveling across the country next year, stopping at Native American reservations and speaking with the tribes at each place.
He did something similar six years ago, he said. He got in his motor home and drove to Maine, stopping at reservations along the way.
“Our overall picture is to try to get all the signatures by 2013,” he said. “Let’s say 2013 becomes a holiday. Can you imagine what a day for festivities that would be — taking place from Alaska down. It’s not just history but a holiday — a gathering to exchange culture.”
The thought of a national Native American holiday is something Chee-ko said he wants to see come to fruition.
“I don’t know Congress regulations or how they go about deciding what day it would be,” Chee-ko said. “I would like to select the day before Columbus Day.”
Native Americans in New Mexico like to kid a lot, he said and added that Columbus Day is the day the Natives discovered him.
“I’m so involved, I can’t help but think this is positive,” he said. “It’s not just about me. It’s a dream. I’m waking up to it slowly and seeing the possibility of this being a yes.”
But only time can tell, he said.
“Hopefully this one keeps marching forward until it gets to the end of the rainbow,” Chee-ko said. “Ochik-say. The time is now.”
Contact Esther Avila at 784-5000, Ext. 1045, or email@example.com.