Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation Mourns the Passing of Gary Mitchell

Gary Mitchell

Gary Mitchell

MAYETTA, KANSAS — One of the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation’s (PBPN) greatest tribal leaders Gary E. “Shaw-Nosh” Mitchell, 63, passed away today surrounded by his family in Topeka.

Mitchell was serving as the chairman of the PBPN Gaming Commission at the time of his death and had been chairing the Gaming Commission off and on since 1997. Prior to that, he had been elected to serve on the Tribal Council as chairman, vice chairman, and treasurer for a total of 18 years of elected service.  Academically he possessed a bachelor’s degree in political science from Washburn University and a master’s degree in history from Baker University.

“He was a good man and a well respected member of the community. He understood the importance of preserving the culture, traditions and history of the Prairie Band Potawatomi people in a deeply profound way. 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.  We offer prayers of support for his family during this time and will remember Gary fondly and with great respect,” commented Liana Onnen, PBPN Tribal Council chairperson.

Rey Kitchkumme, who is on the Gaming Commission and had also worked with Mitchell on the Tribal Council, said: “On behalf of everyone who worked under his chairmanship the Gaming Commission is deeply saddened by his loss. He honored our Nation through service with tremendous passion and integrity.  He was a good friend, mentor, co-worker and boss.  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 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 & 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.  Among his other accomplishments was being the founder of thePotawatomi News, the Nation’s newspaper that has been circulated to the tribal membership since 2000.

Funeral arrangements can be found at www.mercerfuneralhomes.com.

Dr. Suzanne Heck is the editor of the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation newspaper, “Potawatomi News.”

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