Longtime White Earth tribal chairman 'Chip' Wadena dies


Darrell "Chip" Wadena, who served as chairman of the White Earth Ojibwe tribe in northwestern Minnesota for 20 years, died Tuesday at age 75.

Forum News Service reports Wadena led the tribal government until 1996, when he was convicted of embezzlement and other corruption charges. The conviction also involved money laundering and rigging bids for the construction of Shooting Star Casino in Mahnomen. Forum News says Wadena served a 33-month prison term.

Erma Vizenor led a group of activists that worked to oust Wadena. Vizenor was elected tribal chair in 1996 and continues to hold that post.

Commenting on Wadena's death, Vizenor tells the Star Tribune "I want people to remember him for the good he has done. Serving in tribal office is not an easy job."

The Star Tribune says Wadena earned a reputation for dealing effectively with state and federal officials to bring housing and health care to reservations and took part in White House meetings with Presidents Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton.

His daughter, Ann Brown, tells the newspaper that Wadena had been treated for a long illness before his death.

Wadena's downfall was the subject of a 1999 documentary, "Super Chief," by filmmaker Nick Kurzon.

But even after his conviction by a federal jury in St. Paul, Wadena remained popular on the White Earth reservation.

MPR News reported in 2004 on his bid to regain the tribal chairmanship. Forum News reports Wadena won a majority of the votes cast on the reservation that year, but absentee ballots from tribal members who live elsewhere allowed Vizenor to be re-elected. The following year the tribe amended its constitution to prohibit convicted felons from holding office.

Next Up

Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins

Timberwolves announce 2nd half schedule

The Timberwolves will play 37 games in 66 days to close out the season.

Chris Finch / Timberwolves

National Basketball Coaches Association criticizes Timberwolves' coaching search

The organization believes the Timberwolves failed "to conduct a through and transparent search" before hiring Chris Finch.

best buy

Best Buy announces bonuses of up to $500 for hourly workers

The retailer has seen business boom since the pandemic started, particularly online.


Burnsville PD: Customer sprayed chemical irritant at McDonald's workers

The incident happened in Burnsville over the weekend.

coronavirus, coronavirus test, covid-19

MN launches campaign to get students tested for COVID every 2 weeks

The state launched a youth testing campaign on Wednesday as part of its effort to control the spread of COVID.

jacob frey

Preparations for Derek Chauvin trial underway in Minneapolis

People will see "fortification" efforts and National Guard soldiers.

Willmar Police Department

Road rage leads to brawl at Willmar intersection, police say

The participants appeared to know each other, police said.

hazelewood burgers

3 Minnesota restaurants make it on 50 best burgers in America list

A travel website praised the restaurants' burgers in a recently released list.

Fire, firefighters

Firefighter critical after gun discharges during blaze, hitting him

The 35-year-old Cornell firefighter is hospitalized in critical condition

evelyn adams

After 2 years, sheriff's office seeks new leads in unsolved deadly home invasion

"The sheriff’s office is close to knowing exactly what occurred that night but needs your help," the sheriff's office said.

joseph heroff

Man charged in chase that ended with police fatally shooting suspect

The suspect who was shot has also been identified.


Stanley Crooks, Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community chairman, dies at 70

The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community has confirmed that SMSC Chairman Stanley Crooks died Saturday at age 70. Condolences have been rolling out including a tweet from Shakopee Mayor Brad Tabke, who said, "Sad to hear of the passing of SMSC Chairman Stanley Crooks today. Our deepest condolences to his family and the entire SMSC."