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Holy road

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MACY, Neb. – Former Omaha Tribal Chairman Doran L. Morris Sr., 63, passed away March 5 after a long fight with health complications from diabetes, kidney and heart failure.

Born and raised on the Omaha Indian Reservation in Macy, Morris was a member of the Omaha Tribe’s Hunga’ Clan, which is traditionally characterized by its leadership. Morris served on the Omaha Tribal Council for a total of 32 years, with service in every position on the council including chairman during the 1980s.

As chairman, Morris was instrumental in recovering title to the Omaha Tribe’s ancestral land in Iowa during the “Blackbird Bend” litigation. Morris and other members of the tribal council were jailed for contempt in 1987 after refusing to vacate certain lands. The tribe eventually claimed victory in a settlement that returned 1,900 acres of land to the tribe.

Morris also led the Omaha Tribe toward greater self-sufficiency by pursuing a gaming operation that eventually became Casino Omaha in Onawa, Iowa. Casino Omaha opened at Blackbird Bend in 1992, bringing sorely needed revenues and employment opportunities to the Omaha Tribe.

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Morris represented the Omaha Tribe in the National Congress of American Indians, the National Indian Gaming Association and Mni Sose Intertribal Water Rights Coalition. He also served as a roadman and director of the Omaha Tribal Native American Church. Morris was awarded an honorary doctorate in humanities in 1992 by the Nebraska Indian Community College in recognition of his service to the Omaha Tribe.

As a member of the Hunga’ Clan and descendant of Yellow Smoke, Morris was the Keeper of the Sacred Pole, which occupies a central role in the traditional beliefs of the Omaha Tribe. While chairman, Doran fulfilled the tribe’s desire to have the Sacred Pole returned from the Peabody Museum in Massachusetts. The Sacred Pole now resides under mutual agreement at the Nebraska Historical Society Museum in Lincoln, Neb., until the Omaha Tribe opens its own museum.