MISSOULA — The University of Montana announced a new endowment of $300,000 in honor of Chief Earl Old Person's legacy.
Chief Old Person of the Blackfeet Nation served as Chairman for more than 50 years; he passed away at age 92 last month. He was a staple at UM commencement ceremonies.
“I was just struck by the life he lived, the impact that he had," University of Montana President Seth Bodnar said at an announcement event Monday afternoon.
In Old Person’s honor, UM President Seth Bodnar announced the endowment's purpose to carry on the traditional student-led Kyiyo Pow Wow in perpetuity.
The Pow Wow has been led by students since 1968, and the Kyiyo Native American Student Association works year-round to raise tens of thousands of dollars to pay performers and rent out the Adams center among other expenses.
The gift is meaningful for Kyiyo President Zach Rides At The Door, a member of the Blackfeet Nation who is working on a double major at UM.
“It takes a lot of weight off your shoulders. It's just gonna help the club a lot because we've got to do so much. We're taking so much of our own time, which, personally I'm glad to give," Rides At The Door told MTN News.
During the endowment announcement on campus in the Payne Family Native American Center, stories of Old Person and memories of Kyiyo Pow Wows past were shared.
An honor song was performed by Paul Windy Old Chief and Old Person’s grandson, Arlan Edwards, in addition to a "Victory Song."
“It feels good to see people from back home here and for who it's for. It does make the heart feel good," Rides At The Door said.
The decision affirms a commitment to the Native American student community.
"Helping this university to truly be a place that not just acknowledges the importance of Native American heritage and culture and our past, but a place that commits itself to embedding that in our future and making it an integral part of the experience," Bodnar said.
The next Kyiyo Pow Wow is set to take place on April 15 and 16, 2022.