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Carl Venne, chairman of Montana's Crow Tribe

Carl Venne introduced Barack Obama at a campaign rally in Crow Agency, Mont., in May 2008. The Crow adopted Obama as a member of the Black Eagle family. Carl Venne introduced Barack Obama at a campaign rally in Crow Agency, Mont., in May 2008. The Crow adopted Obama as a member of the Black Eagle family. (James Woodcock/ Billings Gazette via Associated Press)
Associated Press / March 2, 2009
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HARDIN, Mont. - Carl Venne, chairman of the Crow Tribe and a man praised by President Obama as a leader who engaged in a "fervent quest for a better life for his people," has died. He was 62.

Mr. Venne was found dead Feb. 22 in his sister's home, according to the Big Horn County sheriff's office. He apparently died in his sleep, the office said in a statement.

"I was honored to have worked with Chairman Venne, a strong tribal leader, who implored us to uphold treaties and honor Native ancestors," Obama said in a statement released by the White House.

Mr. Venne greeted Obama last summer during a campaign stop in Crow Agency. The Crow adopted Obama as a member of the Black Eagle family. Last month, Obama watched Mr. Venne lead Crow horsemen during the inaugural parade in Washington.

Senators Max Baucus and Jon Tester of Montana issued statements praising Mr. Venne as a man dedicated to his people. Baucus said Mr. Venne was a progressive leader who "always pushed the envelope when fighting for better healthcare and economic prosperity" on the Crow reservation.

Governor Brian Schweitzer said Mr. Venne was one of the great leaders of the Crow Nation.

Mr. Venne, a Vietnam veteran and former counselor at Little Big Horn Community College, became tribal chairman in 2002. The Crow Tribe has about 11,000 members.

Throughout his chairmanship, he supported programs against use of methamphetamine and encouraged a healthful way of life on the reservation. He was instrumental in the US Senate Indian Affairs Committee's selection of Crow Agency as the place for a 2007 hearing on Indian healthcare.

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