Old Town Rock Hill, South Carolina
YE' MIRA' (CHIEF)
FOUGHT FOR THE RECOGNITION
OF THE CATAWBA INDIAN NATION
Born on the Catawba Indian Reservation in 1933, Chief Gilbert Blue led the Catawba Indian Nation for more than three decades (1973-2007). He was a powerful leader who successfully used his influence for the betterment of his people. His legacy is a crucial part of not just the Catawba Nation’s history, but that of Rock Hill, York County and South Carolina, as well. Throughout his life, Chief Blue continued to be known as one of the most recognizable leaders and ambassadors of the Tribe.
During his time as Chief, Gilbert Blue worked tirelessly to advocate for the members of the Tribe at local, state and federal levels. Along with key members of the Tribe's Executive Committee, he passionately fought to regain recognition for the Catawbas from the federal government. The effort took 20 years, but in 1993, the Catawba Indian Nation became the only federally recognized tribe in South Carolina, making resources and opportunities available that had been out of reach for many years.
Chief Blue was also active in numerous organizations that worked to promote justice and equality throughout the region and country. He participated in the United South and Eastern Tribes (USET) and the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI). He was elected to the board of directors of the Native American Rights Fund (NARF) in 1996, serving as chairman in 2000 and 2001. He also served on the State Advisory Committee of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and was an original board member Rock Hill’s "No Room for Racism" Committee.
Beyond the political arena, Chief Blue served his family, his community and his country in many other ways. He was an active member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, holding numerous leadership positions and serving as a church service missionary. He was a US Navy Veteran (1951-1960), serving during the Korean conflict. He made frequent visits in the community to share the culture and traditions of the Catawba Nation, including annual appearances at elementary schools during the Thanksgiving holiday. Chief Blue also shared his great love of music with performances at gatherings, dances, festivals and funerals. In times of sorrow, his voice of wisdom taught and comforted the Catawba people with encouragement and pride in their heritage. His concern for others was also evident when, while in his 70s, he assisted in clean-up efforts following Hurricane Katrina. He cared for his immediate family, siblings and other elderly relatives until a very short time before he passed away in 2016.
The many lifelong efforts of Chief Gilbert Blue helped not only to restore and preserve the legacy of the Catawba Indian Nation, but to inspire his people to be a force for good in the community.