WOODLAND, Calif. -- Longtime Tule River Tribe political and spiritual
leader Phillip D. Hunter died Dec. 11 when his pickup truck crashed into a
big rig truck in dense fog in Porterville, Calif.
A man with a big heart and untiring energy, Hunter, 57, consistently filled
the roles of chairman and vice chairman for more than 18 years and sat on a
myriad of tribal, intertribal, state and federal commissions and
organizations. He was a firm supporter of community sports, health and
educational programs throughout his life.
"If you could name it [an organization], it would seem that he would be on
it," said his brother Jim Hunter.
An avid San Francisco Giants fan, Phillip Hunter shared his passion for
sports with the Tule River Tribal children and youth and ensured that they
had a place to play. He was instrumental in building the reservation's
little league baseball field and basketball gymnasium. He loved education
as well. In November, he helped the tribe arrange for 40 members (half of
them youth) to attend the King Tut exhibit in Los Angeles County Museum of
Art, almost 200 miles away.
He is survived by his wife, Beverly Jones Hunter; his son, Mark Hunter; and
stepsons Craig and Mark Martinez. Hundreds of family, friends and
supporters from the area and across the nation gathered at the Tule River
Indian Reservation for his funeral.
Hunter was also active in intertribal organizations. He served on the
California Rural Indian Health Board and filled the role of Most Likely
Descendant for the Native American Heritage Commission on repatriation
He was a key figure in the ceremonial life of the tribe as well, his
"The song man: that was his name. He knew a lot of songs," Jim Hunter said.
Phillip Hunter never shied from political fights. In 2000, he rankled Gov.
Gray Davis' administration when the tribe refused to sign its state gaming
compact that it contended went beyond regulating gaming.
Hunter was born on the Tule River Indian Reservation and attended
Porterville Union High School. He received associate degrees in
anthropology and human services, and was a certified forestry technician.
He enlisted in the Army in the late 1960s and received paratrooper training
with the 101st Airborne division as a Pathfinder. He was a member of Tule
River AMVETS Post 1988.
He was active in the Council of Energy Resource Tribes, the National
Congress of American Indians and traveled hundreds of miles representing
tribal members on the BIA's regional Agency Policy Committee and Fee to
"He affected a whole lot of people," Jim Hunter said.