The leader of Minnesota's largest Indian tribe has died after a lengthy illness.
The White Earth Reservation announced Monday that Chairman Terrence "Terry" Tibbetts, 60, died Sunday at Sanford Medical Center in Fargo.
Tibbetts, whose given name was Nii-Gah-Nii-Mosay ("Walks First"), had been chairman of the tribe since 2016. He was a lifelong resident of Naytahwaush, Minn., and graduated from Mahnomen High School.
The White Earth tribal nation is the largest in Minnesota, with more than 19,000 enrolled members. Many tribal members live in the Twin Cities or in other parts of the country.
Tibbetts worked for more than 20 years as a public works employee for the tribe. He served on the tribal council from 2006 to 2014 before being elected chairman.
His term was stormy, marked by intense fighting among factions within the tribal leadership. In one instance, Tibbetts and the tribe's secretary-treasurer traded allegations of malfeasance and each sought to have the other officially censured.
An ongoing controversy was the tribe's plan to build a new Shooting Star casino on Star Lake in Otter Tail County near Dent, Minn. The tribe spent more than $7 million on planning, land purchases and infrastructure, according to published reports, but met with intense opposition from local residents.
Last year, tribal elections installed several new members who ran on platforms opposing the casino development, and the tribe pulled the plug on the project. Earlier this year, the tribe announced drastic budget cuts and layoffs.
Tibbetts is survived by his wife of more than 40 years, Carol, seven children and 15 grandchildren.
Vice chairman Eugene "Umsy" Tibbetts will take over the chairman's duties until further notice, the tribe said.