Mitchell remembered as a leader, historian
Regarded as one of the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation’s greatest modern tribal leaders, Gary E. Mitchell died Friday at a Topeka hospital, it has been reported.
Mitchell, 63, is being remembered as a driving force for the Potawatomi tribe in the 1990s and 2000s, when the tribe and state of Kansas drafted their gaming compact and made the tribe’s casino into a regional destination. He was a former leader of the Potawatomi Tribal Council and was serving as chairman of the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation Gaming Commission at the time of his death, it was noted.
Mitchell is also being remembered as someone who worked to preserve the history and traditions of the Potawatomi, serving as the tribe’s historian and founder of the Potawatomi News.
“He understood the importance of preserving the culture, traditions and history of the Prairie Band Potawatomi people in a deeply profound way,” said Lianna Onnen, current tribal council chairperson. “He also took an active role in that preservation through not only his writings, but the way he lived his life. Gary served his people and his community through elected office for many years and his passing is a great loss for our people and for all the lives he touched.”
Mitchell had chaired the Gaming Commission off and on since 1997, it was reported. Prior to that, he served on the tribal council for a total of 18 years, serving in various capacities as chairman, vice chairman and treasurer.
Rey Kitchkumme, a member of the Gaming Commission with Mitchell who also served with him on the tribal council, said Mitchell honored the Potawatomi Nation through “service with tremendous passion and integrity.”
“He was a good friend, mentor, co-worker and boss,” Kitchkumme said of Mitchell. “His intelligence, wit, guidance and graciousness will be forever remembered. His love for the tribe, traditional ways and his family were evident in everything that he did. Our thoughts, prayers and deepest sympathy are with the Mitchell family at this difficult time.”
During his tenure with the Potawatomi Nation, Mitchell was a driving force when the Tribal-State gaming compact was legislated in the 1990s and a casino was built on the Prairie Band reservation. Now known as the Prairie Band Casino and Resort (formerly Harrah’s Prairie Band Casino), Mitchell was active in all phases of bringing gaming to the PBPN and overseeing the casino’s woodlands design.
In addition, Mitchell was a life-long reservation resident and dedicated to ensuring that his people’s traditions and language were maintained. He was a Potawatomi speaker and often gave invocations at powwows and other events. He was the tribe’s historian and wrote many historical narratives that appeared in books and magazines.
An obituary notice for Mitchell appears on Page 5 of today’s Holton Recorder.