Charles Koshiway Johnston was an enrolled member of the Otoe-Missouria Tribe of Oklahoma. He was born in Ponca City, Oklahoma in 1942 to Charles Johnston (part Delaware) and Thelma Gertrude Koshiway (Otoe/Sac&Fox). Charles was a member of the Eagle and Bear Clans. In 1914, his ancestor, Jonathan Koshiway was one of the early leaders of the Native American Church. Charles’ family moved to California on Indian Relocation when he was just two years old, and he lived there the rest of his life.
Charles was a Vietnam era veteran and was initiated into the “Southern Cheyenne Combat Veterans Gourd Society” in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 1992.
Charles was warm and kind, always helping others in need. He loved entertaining his friends and cooking for them. His specialty was ribs that were so tender they fell off the bone. He loved plants, especially his Bonsai trees, and birds and often shared information about them. Charles was a master of bird calls, and when he called them, birds flocked to him. His gift of communication with animals amazed others.
Charles and Sacheen Littlefeather were soulmates. The night before they met, Sacheen had a dream in which she saw an Indian man wearing a white Stetson cowboy hat. She woke up the next morning, went to a Pow Wow, and met the man in her dream. Charles tipped his cowboy hat, looked directly into Sacheen’s eyes, and with a soft Oklahoma accent asked, “How are you?” This was the beginning of 32 wonderful years together.
Charles’ passion was Indian Dancing, Pow Wows, and Native American Art and Culture. As a Southern Traditional Straight Dancer, he was regal and graceful. He danced at Pow Wows throughout California and across the country. Charles was asked to be Head Man Dancer and Arena Director at many California Pow Wows. He loved to go back home to Oklahoma and dance Southern style. Charles was a member of the Otoe Eloska and danced regularly at the Osage I-Lon-schka and the California Hethushka. Wherever Charles traveled, he met relatives and made new friends. Charles also loved watching football games, especially the Oklahoma teams.
Charles was very stable, a good listener, and provided excellent feedback. He had a special look that was reserved for those he loved. He was kind and resourceful and came from a place of wisdom as an elder. In his lifetime Charles was fortunate to adopt a young baby girl, Coleen, from Korea. He raised her as his own, receiving the title of “Dad.”
Charles joined his ancestors on Monday November 22, 2021 at sunrise. Before his passing he chose to be Baptized Catholic and received the Sacrament of the Sick. He was 79 years old. Traditional Otoe services will be held on Friday, December 3 at the Otoe Cultural Center in Red Rock, Oklahoma with burial at the Otoe Cemetery in the afternoon.