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The Sagamore of the Wabash is an honorary award created by the state of Indiana during the term of Governor Ralph F. Gates (1945 to 1949). Governor Gates was to attend a tri-state meeting in Louisville with officials from the states of Ohio and Kentucky. Aides to the governor discovered that the governor of Kentucky was preparing Kentucky Colonel certificates for Governor Gates and Senator Robert A. Taft, who was to represent the State of Ohio. The Hoosiers decided that Indiana should have an appropriate award to present in return.
The term "sagamore" was used by the American Indian Tribes of the northeastern United States to describe a lesser chief or a great
man among the tribe to whom the true chief would look for wisdom and advice.
Each governor since Gates has presented the certificates in their own way. It has been said that one governor even resorted to wearing full Indian headdress as he read the scrolls. The award is highest honor, which the Governor of Indiana bestows. The award is a personal tribute usually given to those who have rendered a distinguished service to the state or to the governor. Recipients have included astronauts, presidents, ambassadors, artists, musicians, politicians and ordinary citizens.
It should be noted that the Sagamores have been conferred upon both men and women. There is no record of the total number which have been presented, as each governor has kept his own roll; just as each has reserved the right to personally select the recipients.
"State of Indiana....Council of the Sagamores of the Wabash
"Robert D. Orr, Governor of the State of Indiana
"Known all men by these presents:
"WHEREAS, the greatness of the Sons of Indiana derives, in part, from qualities possessed by the noble chieftains of the Indiana tribes which once roamed its domain; and
"WHEREAS, it has been the immemorial custom of the State of Indiana to attract to its support those who have exhibited such qualities; and
"WHEREAS, there has endeared himself (herself) to the Citizens of Indiana one ________________ distinguished by his (her) Humanity in Living, his Loyalty in Friendship, his Wisdom in Council, and his Inspiration in Leadership:
"NOW, THEREFORE, recognizing his greatness and desiring to avail myself of his counsel, I do hereby appoint him (her) a chieftain upon my staff with the rank and title of SAGAMORE OF THE WABASH
"Witness my hand and the Seal of the COUNCIL OF THE SAGAMORES, at Indianapolis, Indiana this ________ day of __________ in the year of Our Lord, Nineteen Hundred and _________.
Signed ROBERT D. ORR, Governor of the State of Indiana."