- Associated Press - Thursday, April 13, 2017

CANYONVILLE, Ore. (AP) - Former Cow Creek Tribal Chairwoman Sue Shaffer, a longtime champion for tribal rights, has died. She was 94.

Shaffer was a leader in getting Congress to formally recognize The Cow Creek Band of the Umpqua Tribe of Indians in December 1982. She was tribal chairwoman from 1983 until 2010, spending decades as its public face.

Shaffer was also instrumental in getting the federal government to loan the tribe money for a bingo hall in Canyonville. It was expanded into a casino in 1994, and the Seven Feathers Casino Resort is now a 298-room hotel and casino.

The tribe did not immediately return a phone message seeking comment. “Our hearts our heavy today,” the tribe said in a Facebook post Wednesday, a day after Shaffer died in Roseburg.

U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley said in a statement that Shaffer was a passionate and effective leader.

“Oregon families have lost an extraordinary champion,” Merkley said. “I loved her from the first time I heard her deliver a fiery call to action at a political event.

Sue was known for her straight-forward style, her honesty and integrity,” he added.

Dennis Whittlesey, an attorney who worked with Shaffer to get the Cow Creek Band federally recognized, said she was well known and widely respected in Indian country. Whittlesey also worked with Shaffer to get the first gaming compact in Oregon, allowing the tribe to expand its bingo operation to include gaming machines.

“I know other tribes would come in to talk to the Cow Creek board to talk about getting into gaming or other things,” he told the News-Review of Roseburg (https://is.gd/1Hj4tY ). “I work with tribes all over the country and she was the best tribal chairman I ever saw.”

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