Different people would have known him differently; some would remember him as who he was before he became popular in the eyes of the public: a farmer and a police officer, even a jeweller or a world class judo fighter . But for the greater majority, particularly his constituents, Ben Nighthorse Campbell was a public servant who gave a lot to the public through the things that he did during his several years of tenure while serving in public office from the congress to the senate and every minor office in between that goes with the elected position.
Several important individuals in different fields shower Senator Campbell with very complimenting words – referring to him as someone who is “dedicated”, as someone who is considered as an “accomplished public servant” . History believed he was a political leader who possessed charm, someone who is sincere and has a strong set of leadership qualities . One other description of him is that he is a fighter then and now. His background in the military, in judo and even in the streets when he was young, was a testament to that. In politics, he never changed his attitude.
He was described as a straight-shooter , while other critics view him as someone who is shooting from the hips . Because of the significance of senator Campbell, the purpose of this paper is to discuss Senator Campbell’s life, with focus on his career as a senator and as a congressman and mentioning also his roles in the military, in the American judo history, notes on his personal life before and during his political life and his role in the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial and Museum, National Museum of the American Indian and in the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs.
II. Campbell’s Life Born on April 13, 1933, Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell is one of the few politicians of note who rose in the political circles carrying proudly his Indian ancestry. “He is proud of his Native American heritage. ” His sense of pride and loyalty to his roots and to his culture was seen through his actions as well as through his clothing; it was as if he was wearing his culture, identity and heritage. For example, he was seen wearing “ceremonial tribal clothing” as he attended the opening of the National Museum of American Indian (NMAI) .
It was considered as a “major aspect” that has created, established and sustained the overall “persona” that is Senator Campbell all throughout his life, especially during his political life . Campbell’s personality of hinging so much of who he is as he presents himself to the public on his being a Native American Indian was just enough for people to forget that there were actually men who preceded Campbell who, just like him, were partly Native American Indian and also won elected public office.
One of them served in an office even higher than Campbell’s – and that would be Charles Curtis, who would eventually become the first vice president of the United States who is a Native American Indian. “The highest elected office ever held by an Indian in the US was the vice presidency . ” Unlike Campbell, Curtis was from the Kaw tribe hailing from Kansas. In his vein was quarter of blood from this tribe. Also, he was an attorney before getting elected, unlike the more blue-collar type of jobs that Campbell pursued early in his life before shifting to jewellery designing and production later on.
Nonetheless, both elected men are good and honorable men who made the Native American Indian community proud. But even with men like Curtis and how they were ‘bigger’ men politically, the Indians appreciate Campbell’s efforts at staying with his packaging as the American Indian holding office at the senate and at the congress. This personality/attitude more than compensates for the fact that he was not the first of his kind. “Although not the first Native American senator, he is the first to make a statement with his Indianness. ” Indeed, he, too, was a record maker of sorts, and in many ways.
This is what the paper will explore throughout the discussion on the different aspects of personal and political life of Senator Campbell, who, in November 3, 1992 made a historic feat by becoming the first American politician with Native American roots to be elected as a senator. It was something that hasn’t happened in more than the six decades that has passed in the senate history prior to his election to the office. Prior to that, he became the sixth politician with Native American heritage and ancestry to be ever elected to the congress, a seat that was given to him through the votes of the public for three times .
Senator Campbell’s Indian heritage is no secret. In fact, it seems that it is one of his many major personal characteristics that the media, as well as his colleagues, often refer to or address, particularly his being Indian, and his respectful stature in the Indian community, like being a Northern Cheyenne Tribe chief, a position he and only 43 others possess . Because of Campbell’s pride towards his heritage, his people in return are doing ways to let Campbell know that his act of holding on to his Native American Indian roots and not covering it up with modern day personality just to suit his high echelon colleagues and.
So that he will suit their taste for a particular company, his native Cheyenne are going out on a limb just to celebrate the victory of one of their most accomplished sons. For example, many Cheyenne individuals joined the parade. Some of them spent as much as they can spare just to lavish Campbell and the parade with the decorations fitting to the act of congratulations coming from the Cheyenne tribe. Some actually spent more than they could spare just so they can claim Campbell as their own and they can show how proud they are of Campbell.
“Six of the riders were Northern Cheyenne, who had bankrupted themselves to show the world that Campbell was one of their own . ” Despite his Indian American / Native American Indian roots, Campbell was a Catholic from the time his mother, also a devoted catholic, had him baptized when he was still a baby by bringing him and his sister Alberta to a church to be baptized just close to the time Campbell was born, until the time when he seemed to have had a falling out with the Catholic faith.
But Campbell, during his adult life and especially during his tenure as public office politician, drifted from religion, and proof of this is the item “unspecified” marked on the space allotted for the identification of religious affiliation of the individual. This distinction, again, made Senator Campbell someone who is different from the rest of the field in the 106th Congress. He was the only one whose religious affiliation was unspecified, although there were no clear explanation(s) why such was the case – it could be anyone’s guess, from clerical error, mistake, or other reasons .
His sudden dissociation with the Catholic faith was a surprising turn of events for Campbell. There are many good things that the Catholic faith has done for Campbell, especially during his youth. For example, there is the role of the faith during the times they were sent to the orphanage by their parents because they cannot take care of him and his sister because of their mother’s sickness and their father’s alcoholism and inability to financially support them.
While the Catholic faith and the orphanage system had their share of bad reputation, history points how the Catholic experience was a relatively good one for Campbell. In retrospect, Campbell recalled how the nuns and priests, who took care of him when his parents were unable to take care of him, treated him well. In his recollection of his days with these priests and nuns, as he narrated it for his biography published in book form, he mentioned just several instances wherein he was punished like being sent inside a pig pen to be with a huge pig.
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