Chief Earl Old Person

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Each morning, Chief Earl Old Person’s father greeted him with a Blackfeet phrase. It translated roughly as: Jump up. Try your best. Don’t give up.

Now 83 years old, Old Person remembers well that day in June 1964, and the days of rain that preceded it. He remembers traveling with tribal elders to Heart Butte on the day before the flood. He remembers the elders warning that the flood would come. But no one could anticipate how devastating it would be.

“We can’t control nature, we can’t control things that happen through nature,” Old Person said in an interview last June. “We need to have our young people understand that there are some things that are much greater than us.”

Mostly, though, Old Person chooses to remember how his community responded in the aftermath.

“I think people were right away coming together,” Old Person said. “They didn’t sit idle in any way. They came together, trying to pull one another together.”

It is, he said, an important part of the story for the community to remember.

Jump up. Try your best. Don’t give up.

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