Old Person, Earl

Old Person, Earl,1929-2021, leader of the Blackfeet Nation, b. outside Browning, Mt., Blackfeet names Stu Sapoo ("Cold Wind") and Ahka Pa Ka Pee ("Changing Home"). Earl's parents were ranchers and he was raised on the reservation. After completing high school, he worked as an interpreter in the local land office and then ran for a seat on the tribal council, serving from 1954-2016 (except for two brief hiatuses). He was elected the council's chair in 1964, holding that title for 16 out of the 22 subsequent two-year terms until 2008. On his retirement, he was the longest serving elected tribal official in the country. He was given the hnorary title of Chief of the Blackfeet Nation in 1978, and served as president of the National Congress of American Indians (1969-71). He was an important spokesperson for his own tribe and other Native Americans in negotiating with the U.S. government for better services and to protect tribal lands. He was an advocate for business investment on the reservation, supporting the opening of a local bank and encouraging outside investments in tribal businesses, and was a prime force behind the establishment of the Blackfeet Community College in 1974. Earl was a talented musician and dancer as well as a storehouse of Blackfeet culture and language. Among his awards and honors included an honorary doctorate in Humane Letters from the Univ. of Montana (1994), the Jeannette Rankin Civil Liberties Award by the ACLU of Montana (1998), and induction into the Montana Indian Hall of Fame (2007).

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