Ralph Sturges, 88; was chief of Mohegan tribe
October 2, 2007
By Associated Press | October 2, 2007
NEW LONDON, Conn. - Mohegan Chief Ralph Sturges, who helped shepherd his eastern Connecticut tribe through federal recognition and the development of its highly successful casino, has died. He was 88.
Chief Sturges died Sunday night at Lawrence Memorial Hospital in New London from lung cancer, tribal officials said.
The Mohegans earned federal recognition in 1994, two years after he was elected chief for life. Their Mohegan Sun casino in Uncasville, one of the largest in the world, opened in 1996.
"We will miss his leadership, and his passing leaves a void not easily filled in our tribal government," said Bruce "Two Dogs" Bozsum, chairman of the Mohegan tribe. "I know that many of us considered him a friend and person we could approach for advice on any issue."
Born on Christmas Day 1918, Chief Sturgis traced his Mohegan ancestry to his mother's family.
Before becoming chief, he was a payroll deliveryman for an armored car company and a disaster relief coordinator and public relations director for the Salvation Army.
Chief Sturges was part of the Civilian Conservation Corps and was involved in projects such as cleanup efforts after the Northeast hurricane of 1938.
During World War II, he served in the Army's intelligence division in New Guinea and the Philippines, earning a Bronze Star, the tribe said.
In 2005, Chief Sturges was named man of the year by Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Southeastern Connecticut and citizen of the year by the Chamber of Commerce for Eastern Connecticut.
He also was a sculptor. His works can be found at the state capitol, New London City Hall, Montville High School, and the cornerstone of Mohegan Sun, the tribe said.
Tribal flags at Mashantucket, home to nearby Foxwoods Resort Casino, the state's other Indian casino, were lowered to half-staff.
"Chief Sturges was a valued leader of his people and an inspiration to native peoples everywhere," said Mashantucket Pequot tribal chairman Michael Thomas.
Governor M. Jodi Rell also lauded the Mohegan chief.
"He will be forever remembered for his contributions not only as a wise leader - having most notably served his people during their successful campaign for federal tribal recognition - but as a skilled sculptor," she said in a statement. "The state of Connecticut and the Mohegan Tribe have lost a great friend and treasured talent, but in cherishing him we will maintain his spirit always."
Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said Chief Sturges touched countless lives.
"Ralph Sturges was truly a man for all seasons - a uniquely wonderful human being, a leader of courage and vision, a champion for Native Americans, and a model of public service for all of us," Blumenthal said.
EDITORIAL FOOTNOTE: Will the Council of Elders step up and have a sacred fire or some other way of commemorating his (Chief Sturges) life and death? Will he be forgotten again?
I asked the Fire Keeper of the Mohegan Tribe if they could do a sacred fire for Chief Sturges. He said I would have to ask the Council of Elders.
Should the Elders have this responsibility? Are they going along with Oral Tradition? Are they basing this policy on the 1996 Mohegan Constitution? Why should a tribal member have to ask the Elders?
Isn't it tradition that a tribal member should go directly to a lodge keeper or fire keeper and just ask? What do you think?
THESE ARE THE COMMENTS, OPINIONS AND IDEAS OF BROKENWING.