Washington, D.C. – The National Indian Gaming Association mourns the loss of long-time Blackfeet Chief and Chairman Earl Old Person, who passed away on Wednesday, October 12, 2021, after a long battle with cancer.
Old Person, 92, served for more than 60 years on the Blackfeet Tribal Business Council and was chairman of the council for more than 50 years. He has been the tribe's chief since 1978.
National Indian Gaming Association Chairman Ernie Stevens, Jr. said, "Earl Old Person leaves a strong legacy for us all to follow. His lifelong commitment to serving the people of the Blackfeet Nation is such an inspiration. Indian country lost a true champion. Earl was my friend and was a true mentor to me."
In an official statement released by the Blackfeet Nation last week, they shared, "The Blackfeet People have suffered a huge loss with the passing of Chief Old Person. A chapter in our history has come to a close. The Blackfeet Tribe offers prayers and support to the family of Earl at this time.
Chief Old Person joined the tribal council in 1952, and he served for over 60 years, including more than 50 years as chairman. "During this time, Earl met many dignitaries including every U.S. President since Dwight Eisenhower, the British Royal Family, the Shah of Iran, and other world leaders," the tribe said.
Old Person was bestowed the title of chief, a hereditary position in 1978. His advocacy went beyond the Blackfeet Nation. He served two terms as president of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) and president of the Affiliated Tribes of the Northwest Indians (ATNI).
The Blackfeet tribe began honoring Old Person and his leaders this week. He returned to the Nation's headquarters in Browning, Montana on Monday for a walk-through viewing at the tribal conference room chambers. Yesterday Old Person was escorted to the Browning High School Gymnasium, where he will lay in state until Friday.
The tribe shared that a special church service will be held on Thursday evening, followed by a funeral service Friday morning.
On Monday, the Office of Gov. Greg Gianforte announced that all flags in Montana are to fly at half-staff in honor of Old Person from Wednesday through Friday.