Earl Old Person, the Chief of the Blackfeet Tribe in Montana and former chairman of a tribal business council, has died of cancer. He was 92.
Chief Old Person died Wednesday at Blackfeet Community Hospital after a long battle with cancer, according to spokesman James Smith on the Facebook page of the Blackfoot Nation/Blackfreeth Tribal Business Council.
Chief Old Person's passing today leaves a massive burden on the Blackfeet People, the tribe said in remembrance of Chief Blackfoot in an email. A chapter in our history has come to a close, he added.
Chief Old Person was elected to the Blackfeet Tribal Business Council in 1954 and served for over 60 years. He was the tribe's chairman of the business council for over 50 years, making him the nation''"most active elected tribal official."
Chief Old Person, the chieftainship's hereditary, lifetime title, was awarded in 1978 by the family of the late Jim White Calf, tribal officials said.
Chief Old Person met with a number of dignitaries, including every U.S. president since Dwight Eisenhower, the British Royal Family, and the Shah of Iran, according to the tribe.
Chief Old Person was invited to Tehran, Iran, in 1971, to participate in ceremonies marking the 2,500th anniversary of the establishment of Iran's Empire.
Chief Old Person told the Great Falls Tribune that he was invited to have high tea with the shah.
Chief Old Person stated in a 2008 interview that he put on his costume and went. He asked me to give a small talk, so I stood up and asked the shah to join me. I started to speak, but I could tell people were smiling and I began to get concerned, so I cut my speech short.
Chief Old Person did not realize that Irian diplomatic protocol stipulated that the Iranian monarch must never be forced to stand at someones request.
Chief Old Person, who said he later asked the interpreter if a mistake had occurred, added that 'he responded very graciously'.
Chief Old Person said the interpreter did not respond, but you did something that has never been done in the preceding 2,500 years when you asked the shah to stand up.
Chief Old Person worked to preserve the tribal language and customs and opposed oil and gas development in the Badger-Two Medicine area, south of the Blackfeet Reservation and sacred to the tribe.
This is going to be a huge void that we all have to step up and try to fill, said Democratic state Rep. Marvin Weatherwax of Browning. "He's been an inspiration to a lot of us, including myself. He's the reason why I decided to go into politics.
Chief Old Person is one of the heroes you wanted to be able to say (that) you knew this person, Weatherwax stated.
Chief Old Person was the president of the National Congress of American Indians in the 1970s, received an honorary doctorate from the University of Montana in 1994, and was awarded the Jeanette Rankin Civil Liberties Award by the American Civil liberties Union of Montan. Chief Old Person was inducted into the Montana Indian Hall of Fame in 2007 and the C.M. Russell Museum in Great Falls presented Chief Senior Person with its Western Heritage Award in 2020.
Chief Old Persons death was mourned by Montana s political leaders, according to the Montana Senate.
Governor Greg Gianforte said in a statement that "Chief Old Person leaves severing legacy with his passion for people, unmatched strength of character, commitment to service, and commitment towards preserving cultural heritage." Chief Old Person dedicated his life as a tireless advocate, educator, storyteller, and song singer not only for the Blackfeet people, but also for our state and nation. His legacy will last for many generations.
Chief Old Person, a Montanan and america's favorite politician, said Steve Daines, who is defending his candidacy. My thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends, and the entire Blackfeet Nation. It was an honor to get to know him.
Sen. Jon Tester said he and his wife Sharla were trauering the loss of a great man and cherished friend.
Chief Old Person was a strong advocate for the Blackfeet Nation and Indian Country his entire life, and the world is saner because he was in it, Tester wrote on Twitter.
The tribe said that plans for memorial services are still pending.