On Senate Floor, Tester Honors Chief Earl Old Person

Senator: “He was a keeper of Tribal history, a tireless advocate, and for many, he was a national voice for Indian Country.”

U.S. Senator Jon Tester today gave remarks on the Senate floor honoring the life and legacy of Blackfeet Nation Chief, Earl Old Person, who passed away on Thursday, October 13th after a long battle with cancer.

“He was a keeper of Tribal history, a tireless advocate, and for many, he was a national voice for the challenges in Indian Country,” said Tester. “There are too many honors and awards for me to name, but Chief Old Person’s impact goes far beyond his accolades… He will sorely be missed by the Blackfeet Nation, by the state of Montana, by Indian Country across this country, and my wife Sharla and I, as well as countless others that knew him. The world is a better place because of Chief Old Person and the work that he did. He will never be replaced.”

At the age of 92, and at the time of his death, Chief Old Person was the longest serving elected Tribal official in the United States. He was first elected to the Blackfeet Tribal Council in 1954, and would serve on the council for 56 years. In 1978, Old Person became Chief of the Blackfeet Nation, and would hold the title of Chief until his passing.

Throughout his life, Chief Old Person served as the President of the National Congress of American Indians, helped to establish the nation’s first Tribally owned bank, and was named the Outstanding Indian of the Year by the Chicago Indian Council. In 1994 Old Person received an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from The University of Montana in recognition of his accomplishments and contributions to Indian Country. In 1998 he was awarded the Montana ACLU’s Jeannette Rankin Civil Liberties Award, the organization’s most prestigious award. He is also a member of the Montana Indian Hall of Fame (2007), and was recently inducted into the Montana Indian Athletic Hall of Fame (2021).