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Indianz.Com Video: Chief Earl Old Person of the Blackfeet Nation presents the Badger-Two Medicine Song
Blackfeet Nation mourns passing of longtime Chief Earl Old Person
Monday, October 18, 2021

The Blackfeet Nation is mourning the loss of Earl Old Person, the tribe’s longtime chief and former chairman.

Old Person passed away last Wednesday after a long battle with cancer, the tribe said. He was 92 years old.

“The Blackfeet People have suffered a huge loss today with the passing of Chief Old Person,” the tribe said in a statement. “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.”

Old Person joined the tribal council in 1952. 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 continued his service to the tribe following his stint as chairman. He was bestowed the title of chief, a hereditary position, in 1978.

“We recognize that with Chief Old Person’s passing, an era has come to an end in Blackfeet and Montana Indian history,” the Montana American Indian Caucus, consisting of state lawmakers in Montana, said in a letter to the Blackfeet Nation on Friday.

“His legacy will live on for generations in the collective memory of Montana and the country,” the lawmakers said.

In addition to leading his tribe, Old Person was known as a strong advocate for Indian Country. He served two terms as president of the National Congress of American Indians and was president of the Affiliated Tribes of the Northwest Indians.

Earl Old Person
Chief Old Person of the Blackfeet Nation Montana sings a prayer at the opening of the U.S. Department of Agriculture 150th anniversary celebration in Washington, D.C., on May 15, 2012. Photo by Bob Nichols / USDA

“Chief Old Person was a fierce advocate for the Blackfeet Nation and all of Indian Country for his entire life, and the world is a better place because he was in it,” Sen. Jon Tester (D-Montana) said in a statement. “He will never be replaced, and we are holding his loved ones and the Blackfeet people in our hearts.”

“He was a great Montanan and a great American,” Sen. Steve Daines (R-Montana) said of Old Person. “My prayers are with his family, friends and the entire Blackfeet Nation. It was an honor to know him.”

“It is with heavy hearts we mourn the passing of Chief Earl Old Person,” Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte (R) said in a statement. “With the confidence of his people, Chief Old Person put others before himself to serve a greater good. Chief Old Person leaves a lasting legacy with his love for people, unparalleled strength of character, dedication to service, and commitment to 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,” the governor said. “His legacy will live on for many generations. Our prayers are with Chief Old Person’s family, friends, and the Blackfeet Nation.”

The tribe will spend the week honoring Old Person and his legacy. He is returning to Blackfeet headquarters in Browning on Tuesday afternoon, where a viewing will take place at the tribal conference room chambers, according to the official arrangements.

On Wednesday afternoon, Old Person will be escorted to the Browning High School Gymnasium. He will lay in stat there until Friday.

A special church service will be held on Thursday evening, followed by a funeral service on Friday morning. Additional details are expected to be provided.