Dennis Maynard Harper, 65
Dennis Maynard Harper, 65 of Cass Lake died Monday, August 11, 2008 at his home.
Traditional funeral Services will be 10:00 am, Friday, August 15, 2008 at the Dennis Harper residence located at 16763 65th Ave. NW, Cass Lake with Spiritual Leader Lee Staples. A wake will begin Thursday, August 14, 2008 and go until the time of the service on Friday. Interment will be at the Old Agency Cemetery in Onigum, MN under the direction of the Cease Family Funeral Home of Bemidji.
Dennis was a simple man simply trying to do his best for as many people as possible.
He was born September 27, 1942 in Cass Lake, MN the son of George and Mattie (Soreyes) Harper. A White Earth enrollee, raised on the Leech Lake Reservation, he grew up and attended school in Cass Lake. He served with the US Army Reserves from 1962 to 1965. He finally convinced Judy Staples to be his bride, and they married on June 8, 1963. They moved to Chicago where he attended Northeastern University to study mathematical engineering; he worked for the railroad while he attended school. Dennis believed in our ability to create change and health for our Anishinaabe communities, and he lived his life by helping others to do just that. He helped to organize efforts that impacted many parts of our Anishinaabe communities through educational and political arenas. While living in Chicago, he organized the Native American Committee which led to the creation and opening of the Chicago American Indian Center. He co-founded the Little Big Horn School, University Without Walls, and NAES (Native American Educational Services) College, the only private American Indian college in the nation. He worked to create tribal and federal educational policy that supported these endeavors.
In 1973 Dennis and his family moved back home to Cass Lake, where he continued his role in education and community organizing. He and others from the native community organized a public school student walk-out and established the Chief Bug O Nay Ge Shig School at Leech Lake as a way to recognize the importance of our Anishinaabe identity to our educational efforts. All of these schools provided models or inspiration for other tribal nations at a time when a path to empowerment was being sought. Most recently, he provided many in-kind hours and advisement to the planning and development of Niigaane Ojibwe Language Immersion School.
Dennis worked to make the political process accessible to band members at both White Earth and Leech Lake Nations. He designed political campaigns and tirelessly drove the countryside to listen to the concerns of the voters and to collect ballots in support of tribal leaders who shared a vision of a healthy community at Ojibwe nations. Though he directed most of his efforts at White Earth and Leech Lake Nations, he influenced political operations across all MCT tribes. He is recognized by current and former tribal leaders as 'my only true friend' and 'the brother I never had'.
Dennis helped to grow a modest pull-tab fundraiser operation in Cass Lake into the Leech Lake Bingo Palace and Casino, the first gaming operation in Minnesota, opening the door to economic growth for Minnesota tribes.
Through all the struggles of implementing new kinds of thinking and action, he realized the importance of having a good time to keep up morale. Dennis organized recreation efforts in the communities as well. He was a co-founder of the Old Timers' Athletic Support Club, and organized softball tournaments and bowling tournaments as fundraisers. He is remembered by all as good-humored, funny, and a legendary practical joker. His wry humor and quick retorts will be sorely missed. Dennis was well-known throughout the country for his artistry, creativity, and silversmithing.
His greatest joy in life was his family. His truest sense of accomplishment came through seeing his family together and watching them grow. He made sure to be a constant role in his grandchildren's lives, and he'd once wished that he would've had them first.
He is survived by his gracefully patient wife Judy Harper of Cass Lake; 5 genius children Melanie (Billy) Harper of Cass Lake, Jeffrey Harper of Cass Lake, Laurie (Amik) Harper of Cass Lake, Leslie Harper of Cass Lake and Jason Harper of the Navajo Nation; 5 handsome brothers Wellington "Wimpy" Harper of Cass Lake, Francis (Julie) Harper of White Bear Lake, MN, Henry Harper of Cass Lake, Colin (Janice) Harper of Minneapolis, Eugene "Bugger" (Natalie) McArthur of Ogema; 14 stupendous grandchildren, 3 great grandchildren, and closest cohort in acts of absurdity, brother-in-law Donald "Mick" Finn.
He was preceded in death by his parents, brothers John, Roger, and Charles and grandson Truman.
Casketbearers will be Billy Pigeon, Mike Liberty, Mick Finn, Bugger McArthur, Mike Garbow and Darrel Gale.