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In a June 8, 2006 file photo, Fred Dakota looks at Zeba’s garage where he founded the first tribal casino in 1983, earning him the nickname “The Father of Indian Gambling.” (Courtesy photo)

BARAGA – The offices of the Indian community of Keweenaw Bay were closed on Friday to commemorate the late Fred Dakota, former president and known as “Father of the Indian game”.

Dakota died suddenly at her home on Monday. In a statement, the KBIC described Dakota as a “True visionary” who helped guide the development and evolution of KBIC. He served on the tribal council for 33 years between 1968 and 2016, including 20 as president.

“It has been an honor and a privilege to be alongside one of the greatest leaders of the Indian country”, President of the Warren Tribe “Chris” Swartz Jr. said in a statement. “Fred had an impact not only on KBIC, but also on many tribal communities through his leadership abilities. For my part, I am grateful for what he has done for me personally and professionally. I will miss his visits and his leadership skills.

The KBIC was remembered by Dakota for her willingness to take risks and her firm belief in tribal sovereignty.

“He made sure that KBIC was at the forefront, from everything to treaty rights, to negotiations with other sovereigns, to self-government,” he added. KBIC said in a statement.

The tribe remembered his mentorship as well as his service to the country in the United States Marine Corps. Baraga County veterans returned military honors to the cemetery during his funeral on Friday.

India’s billion dollar gambling industry also dates back to the tiny Dakota casino that opened in a two-car garage in Zeba in 1983.

Although court rulings were against him, he paved the way for the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988, which allowed tribes to negotiate deals with states to open casinos.

“The other tribes watched me and said: ‘We are going to open up'” he said in an interview with the Daily Mining Gazette in 2006. “The (government) tried to stop them too and that was the start.”

Tribal offices were closed on Friday, as was the Keweenaw Bay Ojibwa Community College campus. The Ojibwa Casino locations in Baraga and Marquette also closed between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. on Friday.

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