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Thelma “Chincie” Ross
1917 - 2016

Thelma “Chincie” Ross was born Sept. 9, 1917, in Tuttle, Oklahoma, to Turner and Susan Cochran. “Chincie,” a nickname given to her by her father, is an Native American word meaning “beautiful flower.”

Ms. Ross graduated from Haskell Institute in Lawrence, Kansas, and went on to work with the Cheyenne-Arapaho tribe in Concho, Oklahoma. She later worked at Fort Defiance Hospital in Window Rock, Arizona, with the Navajo tribe.

During World War II, Ms. Ross worked as a code talker administrator. She helped process the Navajo Marine recruits selected to serve as code talkers. During WWI and WWII, it is believed by many historians, the code talkers were essential in securing the victory of the United States and its allies. The Navajo did not have a formal written language and were able to speak without any outsiders understanding their conversations.

Ms. Ross has been a vital member of the Tuttle community. She tended to the Silver City Cemetery, a significant part of Chickasaw history, worked as the town historian and was Tuttle’s first librarian.

She was honored during the 2009 Tuttle High School 100th anniversary by serving as parade marshal. In 2014, the city of Tuttle dedicated the Thelma “Chincie” Ross Meeting Room in the new city hall.

Ms. Ross was chosen as one of the featured elders in Mike Larsen’s acclaimed painting series Elders of the Chickasaw Nation.

To those fortunate to know her, Ms. Ross’ laughter and spirit continue to provide joy, and her ways have instilled lessons others will cherish for years to come.

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