The funeral for Gilbert Blue, the former Catawba Indian Nation chief, is set for 3 p.m. Wednesday at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on the Catawba reservation.
Blue, 82, died at hospice Saturday after battling mesothelioma. A U.S. Navy veteran, he was for 34 years the leader of the only federally recognized Native American tribe in South Carolina.
The family will receive friends from 6 to 8 p.m Tuesday at Whitesell Funeral Home in Rock Hill.
Blue was chief from 1973 through 2007, when he chose to retire rather than seek re-election. Blue brought the Catawba Indian Nation, with its reservation along the Catawba River in York County, into the modern era. He was a champion of tribal rights and the rights of Catawba people as individuals, as well as the basic rights of all American citizens.
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He was the driving force behind the 1993 settlement among the tribe and the South Carolina and federal governments, which ended a long legal battle over land claim rights for more than 144,000 acres in York, Chester and Lancaster counties in South Carolina and into North Carolina.
Blue’s leadership has been praised as the key to working out the settlement and helping the tribe create social, political, health, education and other programs