Published June 15, 2016
CATAWBA INDIAN RESERVATION — Gilbert Blue, the longtime tribal chairman of the Catawba Indian Nation, based in Rock Hill, South Carolina, walked on last Saturday. Chairman Blue was 82.
“Chief Blue was elected chairman of the Catawba Indian Nation in 1973 at a time when the Tribe was steeped in dire poverty,” said Ernie Stevens, chairman of the National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA). “Through his strong leadership, he headed up the fight to get the U.S. federal government to admit that hundreds of thousands of acres were stolen from the Tribe. This huge legal victory led to the Tribe regaining their sovereign status in 1993, and led to receiving much needed financial compensation,” added Chairman Stevens.
“Gilbert will always be known for his friendly smile and love of music. You could still find him playing his guitar and singing at tribal events even after he left office. His loss will be felt throughout the tribe, but his contributions will never be forgotten,” the Catawba Indian Nation wrote in a statement released on the tribe’s Facebook page.
“Chief Blue was a very close friend and mentor to me early in my work in Washington, D.C. As the former first Vice President of the National Congress of American Indians, I could always look to the Chief for carefully thought-out strategy to move our important issues forward,” Chairman Stevens stated.
For 34 years, Chief Blue led the Catawba Indian Nation. He was also a celebrated U.S. Navy veteran and a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. He died Saturday of mesothelioma.
Funeral services for Chief Gilbert Blue were held Wednesday, June 15 at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints on the Catawba Reservation.
“Chief Blue was a warrior for his people and for Indian Country as a whole. He was someone we could count on. He was a contemporary hero and will be sadly missed,” concluded Chairman Stevens.
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