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Society of Sagamores

The Sagamore of the Wabash

The Sagamore of the Wabash award was created during the term of Governor Ralph Gates, who served from 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 Gov. Gates learned the governor of Kentucky was preparing a Kentucky Colonel Certificate for Governor Gates and U.S. Senator Robert A. Taft, who represented the State of Ohio. It was decided Indiana should have an appropriate award to present in return and thus The Sagamore of the Wabash award was born.   

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 Gov. Gates has presented the certificate in their own special way. The award is highest honor bestowed by a sitting Governor of Indiana.  It is a personal tribute usually presented to persons who have rendered a distinguished service to the State or the sitting governor.

“You know, the highest honor an Indiana governor gives is called the Sagamore of the Wabash…[It’s] given for wisdom, and public commitment, and a concern for the well-being of others. So, I’d say that Sagamore chose its name well, and is living up to it every day.” 

– Former Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels

Society of Sagamores

When Indiana’s most distinguished citizens receive the Sagamore of the Wabash award, they read a parchment that calls them to serve as counsel to the governor. To enlist our best minds and talents to make Indiana better was Governor Gates’ inspiration in 1942 to bestow the honor.

The formation of the Society of the Sagamores will facilitate this grand vision by designing creative opportunities for the Sagamores to dialogue with the sitting governor, past governors, and other state leaders in pursuit of innovative solutions to our greatest challenges.

Key Features of the Society of Sagamores:

  • Annual luncheon in Indianapolis or regional city
  • Interaction with state political leaders and national leaders
  • Opportunities to offer policy counsel and civic service
  • Inspire the next generation of Indiana citizens

“The Sagamores are deeply touched that a governor is aware of their contributions to neighborhood, state, or nation. But I sense something much deeper: they’re not done yet. This is a group that hungers for engagement and is not content with the status quo. They are change agents and I am very excited to put them to work as counsel to my administration and by giving them a new call to action in their spheres of influence…I’m especially hopeful that the new Society of Sagamores will arrange school visits so that the award recipients can encourage the next generation to live lives of service as well. We have a lot to discuss at the Indiana Conference on Citizenship and I’m eager to roll up my sleeves and go to work with my fellow citizens to make Indiana the best place in America to live and work.”

-Gov. Mike Pence