Flags were at half mast on Friday, Oct. 15, around the Blackfeet Reservation, and Tribal Offices will be closed from Tuesday, Oct. 19, to Friday, Oct. 22, as the Blackfeet Nation mourns the death of Chief Earl Old Person. He passed on Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021, after a lengthy battle with cancer.
A cold wind came to the Reservation the day before, on Tuesday, Oct. 12, with temperatures in the teens. Folks who awoke very early that morning witnessed the Northern Lights dancing over Browning and surrounding areas. Some said it presaged the Chief’s journey the following day.
Earl Old Person traveled among worlds, his feet firmly planted in the stories, songs, societies and relationships of traditional Blackfeet culture. His mastery of two languages enabled him to be a pivotal figure in the early days of tribal government. Long before he became a Tribal Councilman in 1952, it was his voice that interpreted the words of federal officials.
His knowledge of where he came from and who his people were enabled him to take that confidence wherever he went. He traveled all over the United States and around the world, creating relationships with those he encountered. He was the head of state, and he was treated as such.
His constancy, knowledge and reliability made him a fixture in Tribal government, being reelected term after term until well into this century.
Major events took place in all that time, including the great Flood of 1964. Chief Old Person saw to it that the tragedy was recognized in ceremonies up to the present day. He witnessed the wars in Southeast Asia and the Middle East, and honored soldiers in the latter conflict as they returned home or were deployed.
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