Photo: A. Johnson and Archie Sequichie
hero: 1. of character. 2. has special personal qualities
every day hero
Occasionally we hear about someone who, for a moment, under exceptional circumstances, sets their personal comfort and safety aside to perform a heroic act…saving a child from a burning building or confronting a dangerous criminal. By all accounts, Charles “Arch” Sequichie, Jr. made self-sacrificing choices to serve others his entire life. In my mind, there is no greater hero than someone who puts the care, safety, and well-being of others before their own interest. Never married, Arch dedicated his career to the service of the residents of Nowata County, Oklahoma through his role as a lawman and helped his sister raise five orphaned children.
Growing up Cherokee
Charles “Arch” Sequichie, Jr., was born in Cooweescoowee Indian Territory (now Childers, Oklahoma) in 1897. He was the oldest of five children born to Charles Arch, Sr. and Esther “Essie” (Brown) Sequichie. His father, Arch Sr., was a full-blood Cherokee and the grandson of Jennie Sequichie, who came to Oklahoma Indian Territory on the Trail of Tears. (Click on Jennie’s name to read her story.) His mother, Essie, was said to be of English and Black Dutch ancestry.
caring for the needs of others
Arch Jr. had a sister named Nellie, who everyone referred to as “Gyp” because her black hair, dark skin, and green eyes made her look like a gypsy. Gyp was volunteering as a nurses aid at the local hospital when a pregnant mother died during childbirth. Wanting to adopt the baby, Gyp spoke to the father, who asked her to not only take the baby but to please raise his other four children, as well. She agreed and Arch offered to assist Gyp raising the five children. He eventually legally adopted all of the kids so they would qualify to receive his military benefits.
Although Arch had a long-time girlfriend, he never married. When asked why he remained a bachelor his entire life, Arch responded, “All through history when there were some children left without parents, someone [from the Cherokee tribe] would take them and raise them. This is one of the reasons I have never married. I guess I was always too busy raising children.”
The five children loved Gyp and Arch, who they referred to as Mama and Papa. According to daughter, Joyce, “Our family was rich in love and humor and personality. Summer nights we would all sit together on the front porch in total darkness and tell ghost stories, snake stories, and stories about unusual events and supernatural lights.”
a lifetime of service
One of Arch Jr.’s first jobs was building buses for the local school district and he served as school bus driver for thirteen years. Arch also loved to hunt and fish. According to his friend, Alvis Johnson, Arch would often “stop the bus, shoot a prairie chicken or a squirrel, go get it and bring it into the bus and continue his route.”
During World War I, Arch joined the Army Corps of Engineers. His father had served as a Cherokee translator and Arch Jr. must have inherited some of the linguistic skills because he was assigned the training of a company of Indians from several different tribes. This was a challenging task, given the substantial difference between Indian ways and the white man’s concept of military discipline and authority.
Shortly after Arch returned from the military, in 1943, he was asked to serve as undersheriff of Nowata County, eventually being elected Sheriff in 1951. He was proud of the fact that he never had to kill a man during his career. He said that he had “shot around a fugitive, but with no intent of hitting him, and several men have looked at the dark little hole at the end of my pistol and followed orders.” In his role as sheriff, Arch began a fingerprint database and kept a large collection of shells and ammunition. His methods of using fingerprints and ballistics testing were leading edge in this part of the country and helped him to solve many cases.
Multiple articles were written about Arch when he retired from the sheriff’s department after 21 years. One article heralded his career, saying “Sequichie is a modest man and doesn’t like to talk about his many years in the sheriff’s department. But several people in Nowata County have plenty to say about the superior and honest way he does his job.” His undersheriff Arthur Johnson commented, “I have worked under him for 18 years. I think he tries to run the office like it should be run and if you ever met an honest person. It is Archie. He is also a good Cherokee.”
stories from Nowata
Arch always liked to tell stories and in 1969 he was interviewed as part of a Nowata County History project. He spoke of many local outlaws who would terrorize the county. One such outlaw was Cherokee Bill who went on a two-year crime spree killing eight men and robbing banks, trains, and stores throughout Indian Territory. He was finally caught in Nowata and as Arch told it “He became one of the meanest of early day outlaws. When he was sentenced to be hung at Ft. Smith by Judge Parker, the Judge said to him, “I sentence you to be hung until you are dead, dead, dead!”…Cherokee Bill replied, “You can kiss my ass until it’s red, red, red!”
Arch’s daughter Joyce Sequichie Hifler grew up to be a well-known Cherokee author. One of the stories she shares in her book “When the Night Bird Sings” told how “Folks in Nowata still tell stories about Papa’s sense of humor. A man who worked for Papa in the sheriff’s office told me about a time he saw Papa’s 230-pound bulk behind a sapling that had recently been planted in front of the bank building. As the man approached, Papa jumped out and drew his (unloaded) pistol. “Stop that! You’ll scare someone,” the man said. Papa told him, “No I won’t because I’m hiding behind this tree. And besides that, nobody can see me because I’m an Indian.”
tell your story…one final note
Arch passed away in 1985 at the age of 87. I am grateful that he took the time to record stories about his life for the next generation to enjoy, through the Nowata County History project. His daughter, Joyce Hifler Sequichie, continued the family storytelling tradition with her series of books about growing up in Cherokee country (see link below). My challenge to everyone reading this is to tell your story. Leave a record for your children and grandchildren to enjoy. Let future generations get to know you as more than a fading photograph.
sources and additional information
To learn more about Arch Sequichie and read additional stories about growing up Cherokee in Nowata County please follow the links below.
Wesson, Nita. “Family Finders Genealogy Club” Nowata Star [Nowata, Oklahoma] September 21, 2016, p. 3.
Weibe, Connie. “Sequichie, 21 Years in Nowata Sheriffs Dept” The Coffeyville Press [Coffeyville, Kansas] October 22, 1964, pgs 1-4.
“Sheriff Reveals Retirement Plans”, Nowata Daily Star [Nowata, Oklahoma] February 2, 1966.