White, former Tribal Council president, dead at 69
Prairie Island Indian Community this week mourned the loss of a man remembered for helping reshape the community and lay the foundation for its future.
Albert Charles “Sonny” White, Wah Cho Geh Nee Gah (One Who Leads), a former Tribal Council president and general manager of Treasure Island Resort & Casino, died Wednesday Jan. 6 at age 69. Funeral is 1 p.m. Saturday Jan. 9 at the Prairie Island Community Center.
“I always think of him as a visionary,” said community member Linda Owen, recalling White’s tenure on Tribal Council and efforts to pull the community out of an economic slump in the early 1980s.
She said White was instrumental in creating the community’s administrative structure, which led to improvements in health care and housing for its members.
Owen, who said she was hired by White as the first tribal administrator, credits him with breaking through a bureaucratic stalemate to get 24 new housing units built.
White changed the direction of the Prairie Island Indian Community, she added, “so that children had choices in what colleges they wanted to go to, and not be hungry or have to make choices based on economics.”
After graduating Red Wing Central High School in 1976, White attended the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico, before going on to major in museum studies at the University of Colorado Boulder.
“He was very much an artist,” Owen said. “He had that artistic philosophy.”
In addition to his time on Tribal Council, White held several positions at Treasure Island and served on the Minnesota Dakota Sioux Housing Authority.
He is survived by three children, nine grandchildren and one great-grandson, as well as many siblings, nieces and nephews.
White will be buried at Prairie Island Indian Community Cemetery.