Earl Old Person was the longtime chief of the Blackfeet Nation.

Longest-serving tribal leader

Old Person was first elected to the Blackfeet Tribal Business Council, which governs the Blackfeet Nation, in 1954. He was the youngest person ever elected to the council. Ten years later, he was elected chairman of the council, and he was reelected for 16 more terms between 1964 and 2008, making him the longest-serving elected tribal official in the U.S. As chairman, Old Person advocated for business interests as well as land and water rights, spearheading the opening of a community college, bank, and casino on their reservation. He was also notable for his knowledge of tribal history and his work toward preserving traditional stories and songs. Old Person was also named honorary chief of the Blackfeet Nation, a lifetime honor that he held since 1978.

Notable quote

“[W]hen Dad and Mom woke us up for school, they didn’t use harsh words. They said, ‘Get up. Jump up. Try hard and don’t give up.’ Those words gave us a good start for the day. If you start out harsh, the day’s going to be hard. They didn’t have education, but they knew what to say.” —from a 2015 interview for Glacier Reporter

Tributes to Earl Old Person

Full obituary: Great Falls Tribune

View More trfnews Videos