Browning, MT - Earl Old Person, the longest serving elected tribal official in the U.S., passed away on Wednesday, October 13, 2021, at Blackfeet Community Hospital after a long battle with cancer.

Funeral services are pending, according to James McNeely, Public Information Officer for the Blackfeet Tribe.

Chief Earl Old Person
(1929-2021)
Photo: James McNeely

Earl was elected to the Blackfeet Tribal Business Council in 1952 and served for over 60 years while serving as Chairman for over 50 years. 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.

In 1978, the family of the late Jim White Calf, bestowed the hereditary chieftainship, to Earl.

Earl, whose Blackfeet names were Cold Wind (Stu Sapoo) and Charging Home (Ahka Pa Ka Pee), was an orator and leader for the Blackfeet People, the Blackfoot Confederacy, and Indian People across the United States and Canada. He served as president of the National Congress of American Indians (1969-70).

Old Person worked to preserve the tribal language and traditions and fought to block oil and gas development in the Badger-Two Medicine area, an area south of the Blackfeet Reservation that is sacred to the tribe.

Old Person received an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from the University of Montana College of Arts and Sciences in 1994. In 1998, he was awarded the Jeannette Rankin Civil Liberties Award by the American Civil Liberties Union of Montana.[5] In 2007, he was inducted into the Montana Indian Hall of Fame.

“The Blackfeet People have suffered a huge loss today with the passing of Chief Old Person,"  McNeely wrote in a press release announcing the Chief's death, "A chapter in our history has come to a close"

On Thursday morning, Governor Greg Gianforte issued the following statement:

“It is with heavy hearts we mourn the passing of Chief Earl Old Person. 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. His legacy will live on for many generations. Our prayers are with Chief Old Person’s family, friends, and the Blackfeet Nation.”

U.S. Senators Jon Tester and Steve Daines, also issued statements, paying tribute to Chief Old Person and offering condolences to his family and the Blackfeet Nation.

“I was saddened to hear the news of Chief Earl Old Person passing away. He was a great Montanan and a great American. My prayers are with his family, friends and the entire Blackfeet Nation. It was an honor to know him,”  Daines wrote.

Tester's statement read: "Today, Sharla and I mourn the loss of a great man and a dear friend, Chief Earl Old Person. 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. He will never be replaced, and we are holding his loved ones and the Blackfeet people in our hearts."