Sad News: Chairman Bill Houle Walks On

William J. Houle

8/22/1931 – 6/30/2013

William J. “Bill” Houle, 81, enrolled member of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa passed at home surrounded by his family. Visitation will be held on Friday, July 5, 2013 from 4 – 7 pm in the Handevidt Funeral Home, 900 Washington Ave, Cloquet. Vistiation will continue on Saturday, July 6, 2013 from 10:00 am until the 11:00 am Funeral Service also in the funeral home. Full military honors by the Cloquet Combined Honor Guard and the Fond du Lac Honor Guard.

Bill, a Navy veteran, served the people of the Fond du Lac Band as a member of its tribal council and as Chairman of the tribe for 20 years. He came from that old style of tribal leadership that taught the importance of tribal sovereignty and felt strongly about improving the life of the people at Fond du Lac, at the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe and tribal governments and American Indians nationally.

Bill understood the importance of building a reservation economy to provide employment, health, housing and education to Indian people. He also knew of the importance of creating a discretionary source of revenue for tribal governments through developing enterprises. From manufacturing to gaming Bill fought to create opportunities for all Indian people.

Under Bill Houle’s leadership the Fond du Lac Band started one of the first High Stakes Bingo facilities in Minnesota. He served on the BIA National Task Force to study Gaming on Indian Reservations in the early 80’s. He and a handful of other leaders were frustrated by the BIA’s lack of interest in establishing regulations to protect the gaming. Bill, Purcell Powless (Oneida of Wisconsin), Josephine Jackson (Saginaw Chippewa), James Billie (Seminole), Stan Jones (Tulalip), Rocco Knight (Rumsey Rancheria), Fred Thomas Sr., (Kansas Kickapoo) and the Wisconsin Winnebago (now Ho-Chunk) Merlin Red Cloud decided to do something about it. This group met in December of 1985 with Seminole as host at the Eden Roc hotel and decided to seek protective federal legislation for gaming on Indian lands. This, they decided was to be spearheaded by a new tribal entity that in 1986 became the National Indian Gaming Association. Bill Houle was the first Chairman of NIGA and served through the adoption of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988. Also under Bill’s tenure the Band was the first to issue bonds under the Indian Tribal Government Tax Status Act and to have off-reservation land placed into trust for gaming purposes before the passage of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

Bill also treasured his first love of fishing. As Chairman he pursued the reaffirmation of treaty hunting and fishing rights in the 1837 and 1854 Treaty areas of Minnesota for Fond du Lac Band members.

Bill, as a family man, and tribal leader had shown us the importance of securing the future for our children. He will be missed by all.

— Henry M. Buffalo, Jr.


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