Late Former Tribal Chairman George Bennett

The Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians
Honor George Bennett with Memorial Services

The Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians honored the late Tribal Chairman George Bennett on January 10, 2015. It was only natural to hold a memorial as their Seven Grandfather Teachings instills respect, especially for tribal elders. A host of memorial events were held for the former Chairman over the weekend at the Leelanau Sands Casino in Peshawbestown, MI. Bennett, a Navy veteran, passed on his 86th birthday on December 9, 2014.

Saturday's celebration of Bennett began with a tribal pipe ceremony followed by a memorial service with an array of guest speakers. Tribal chairs and council members gave personal tributes during the memorial. Representatives from local and state governments paid their respects as Michigan State Senator Wayne Schmidt and others were in attendance.

Derek Bailey, councilman of the band, shared the remarks from the National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA) Chairman Stevens, as he was not able to be in attendance due to a death in his own family. His remarks expressed his appreciation for Bennett's early mentorship when he was a young Councilman for the Oneida Nation in Wisconsin. He also shared gratitude for the Chairman's role in the development of the the Midwest Alliance of Sovereign Tribes (MAST) and his support for Chairman Stevens during his previous responsibility as first Vice President of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI).

In recognition of his dedication to this country, Bennett received military honors by the Eagletown American Legion Post 120 and the Korean War Veterans Association of Northwestern Michigan - Chapter 38. A luncheon brought the day in full circles as stories of the life of the late former Chairman were shared over a meal, a gift from our great mother earth.

It was Bennett's and others commitment to their Native people that resulted in federal recognition for the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians in 1980. Under Bennett's leadership the band developed the Turtle Creek Casino in Williamsburg and the Sands Showroom nightclub addition to the Leelanau Sands Casino in Peshawbestown. The notable expansion of gaming properties as well as enhanced tribal services provided a platform for the fearless leader.

Understanding the need to look to our youth, Bennett was an advocate for education and economic development. He worked with local, state and federal governments in order to advance Indian Country.

Chairman Bennett will go down in history as one of those great Warriors who helped make Indian Country a better place. Whether it was in the areas of education, economic development or tribal advocacy, Chairman Bennett was powerful force. We thank the Grand Traverse Community, because while Chairman Bennett was a leader to his community, he was an also amazing an ambassador for all Native Nations. His leadership and his legacy will live on forever in Indian Country.
— NIGA Chairman Stevens