Hartford “Sonny” Black Eagle, an elder from Montana’s Crow Indian Nation whose family “adopted” Sen. Obama during the 2008 presidential campaign, has died. He was 78. Black Eagle passed away at his home in Lodge Grass on November 26, after suffering problems from a recent bout with pneumonia.
Black Eagle and his family had ceremoniously adopted Obama when the latter visited the Crow Indian Reservation shortly before Montana’s Democratic primary. As part of the adoption, Obama attended a purification ceremony where he was prayed over by Black Eagle and received a Crow name that translates as, “One Who Helps People Throughout the Land.”
Black Eagle’s son, CedricBlack Eagle, current Crow Tribal Chairman, said the ceremony was one of his father’s proudest moments and felt that it was his duty to make sure Native American voices were heard. “He felt like he was representing all of Indian Country as a spokesman, and always telling his (adopted) son, the President, that he has to make sure all of the people in Indian Country are heard and try to help them all,” Cedric Black Eagle said.
Black Eagle and his wife, Mary, later attended Obama’s inauguration. During destructive flooding on the reservation last year that left Lodge Grass largely isolated and forced many tribal members from their homes, Obama called Hartford and Mary Black Eagle to check on their safety, Cedric Black Eagle said.
Funeral services for Hartford Black Eagle are scheduled December 6, followed by internment at Lodge Grass Cemetery.