Bill Follis, longest serving Chief of the Modoc Nation, dies at 89

MIAMI, Okla. – Modoc Nation Chief Bill G. Follis died on Friday, according to a family statement. Follis, the longest-serving Chief of the Modoc Nation, died at Mercy Hospital in Joplin.  He was 89.

A U.S. Navy veteran, Follis began his tenure as Chief of the Tribe in 1972 and was instrumental in the restoration of Modoc Nation to federal recognition in 1978. He oversaw the growth of the Modoc Nation as a government and the establishment of numerous support programs for the Modoc people.

Education, health initiatives, child and elder care, and housing support programs were at the forefront of his priorities and his accomplished benefits to the Modoc people.

Chief Follis had a common saying “we will give you a hand up, but not a handout.”

“Chief Bill Follis was a fierce advocate for the Modoc Nation and all of Indian Country during his lifetime, said Billy Friend, Wyandotte Nation Chief. “His leadership helped build the foundation of success that the Modoc Nation enjoys today.”

Chief Follis leaves behind a great legacy that will impact the next seven generations of the Modoc people, Friend said.

Follis served on various boards, including the Oklahoma State University Foundation, Rogers State University, the Bureau of Indian Affairs Task Force under the Administrations of Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, the Claremore Indian Hospital, the Northeastern Indian Tribal Health Clinic, and he served as Chairman of the Oklahoma Commission on Indian Affairs.

“Chief Follis was not only a great leader, but he was a fine gentleman,” said Gary Batton, Choctaw Nation Chief. “Always kind and gentle, but he was very firm in his values and commitment to his tribal members and Indian Country.”

In 2008, Oklahoma Governor Brad Henry and Miami Mayor Brent Brassfield proclaimed September 25 as “Chief Bill G. Follis Day” in the State of Oklahoma and the town of Miami for his years of service. In 2016 he received the Distinguished Alumni Award from the Oklahoma State Alumni Association and the American Indian Alumni Society.

Chief Follis negotiated a joint compact to open the Stables Casino. This joint compact was the first such agreement approved by the National Indian Gaming Commission and the Secretary of Interior.

He is survived by his wife, Janet, their two sons, Billy and Phillip, and numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Details on the arrangements for a celebration of life honoring Chief Follis will be released by the family at a later date.

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