MISSOULA — The University of Montana has announced an endowment in honor of the life of Chief Earl Old Person, who passed away in October.
An event held Monday at the Payne Family Native American Center on campus ushered in the new chapter. UM President Seth Bodnar announced a $300,000 endowment that will go toward preserving the student-led Kyiyo Pow Wow.
Bodnar said the endowment is intended to “sustain and improve” the student-run powwow. It honors Old Person as a longtime friend to UM and as a “symbol of the many ways our Kyiyo student group makes this campus better."
“In reflecting on Chief Old Person’s impact not only for UM and our students, but on behalf of the state and the country, I can think of no greater way to continue his legacy than to provide our Kyiyo students with funds that will allow the powwow to continue, hopefully – for a very long time to come,” Bodnar said. “He gave of himself for his people, for his community, that culminated in an incredible life of impact. In many ways, so much of his spirit and what he advocated for embodies UM.”
Chief Old Person of the Blackfoot Nation was a staple at the annual pow wow at the university, which started in 1968. Staff, and family members in attendance remembered Old Person's guidance and giving presence and his legacy was recognized on Monday.
Paul “Windy” Old Chief and his grandson sang songs during the ceremony and shared memories of Old Person. Old Chief is now the only singer of the original Rawhide Singers, who sang at every UM commencement ceremony for the past 20 years.
“To be clear,” Bodnar said, “this is just the beginning. And this blanket, that is a such a generous gesture, frankly belongs to the both of you, who are doing the work of making this campus better and for placing Indigenous culture at the center of our campus experience.”
The designation is made possible by a one-time philanthropic gift to the Excellence Fund, which provides resources that the UM president may use to address campus priorities.
Additional charitable donations are needed to grow the endowment so it will fully support annual pow wow expenses. Click here to contribute to the Chief Earl Old Person Kyiyo Pow Wow Fund to make a gift online. Gifts may also be made by calling 800-443-2593 or mailing contributions to the University of Montana Foundation, noting the Chief Earl Old Person Kyiyo Pow Wow Fund on your check, at P.O. Box 7159, Missoula, MT 59807-7159.