This week, my friend and brother, Carl Venne, left this world for a better one. Over the years, the times we spent together were special because he was a good man. He was, of course, more than that. He was a great man. He cared first and foremost about his family and the Apsáalooke people.
I had the privilege of working with Carl over the course of many years, as a tribal Chairman, as NCAI president, and as members of many inter-tribal organizations such as the Council of Large Land-based Tribes. For the past 7 years, Carl brought his legendary vision and talents to a new company, the Inter-Tribal Economic Alliance. A lot of the ITEA’s growth and success can be traced to his tough guidance, leadership and humility.
It pretty much goes without saying that getting funds – even for worthy projects that bring new jobs to our reservations – out of the federal government is a daunting task. But as we know, Carl wouldn’t take “no” for an answer.
And even though he was an elected official, he had a different outlook on life than most politicians. He was a gracious and quiet man. To him, actions were far more important than speeches or conventions. As a leader, and as a veteran, he fought for and delivered a new Veterans Park for all Apsáalooke veterans in recognition of their service.
Carl forcefully fought for his people’s sovereignty. And when he won, all of Indian country won. It was Carl’s persistent belief in the protection of tribal sovereignty that brought President Barack Obama to his reservation last year. Perhaps years from now, many of us will look back one day and trace the fortunes of Indian country back to that May afternoon and we will have Chairman Venne to thank.
The Apsáalooke chief, Eelapuash said, “The Crow Country is good country. The Great Spirit has put it exactly in the right place, while you are in it you fare well; whenever you go out of it; whichever way you travel you fare worse.”
My brother Carl traveled far and wide in hopes of bringing back recognition and help for his people so they might thrive. Today he has returned home for the final time. And today, more than ever, it is important for all of us to carry on the fight to which he devoted his life. His convictions charted the course that we must follow. His spirit continues to guide us as we fight for the health and welfare of our great Indian nations and for the future of our new generations. It is right that his spirit should lift our own.
Carl was one of the great ones. I am proud and hopeful when I say, “when I see you again, brother.”
Tex G. Hall is the former president of the National Congress of American Indians and former chairman of the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation. Hall is chairman of the Inter-Tribal Economic Alliance and president of Maheshu Energy LLC and resides on the Fort Berthold Reservation in North Dakota.