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Tribal leader and proud veteran Glynn Crooks dies at 67

October 13, 2018

Glynn Crooks, a longtime leader of the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, was passionate about passing on Dakota culture and traditions, as well as expressing his patriotism.

He “journeyed to the Spirit World” on Wednesday, the tribe said in a statement last week. He was 67.

Crooks often served as the public face for the tribe, dressing in Dakota regalia, including an eagle bonnet, as he did most recently in August when he saluted the late Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., during a memorial service in the U.S. Capitol rotunda.

“Glynn was a big personality with a big heart,” said Rebecca Crooks-Stratton, secretary-treasurer of the tribe. “He really was the face of our community in many different ways.”

“He was a very traditional Native person, but at the same had a lot of respect for the United States and the system that we operate under,” she said.

Crooks frequently traveled to Washington, D.C., attending presidential inaugurations of George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump.

His admiration for presidents drove him to construct a replica of the White House West Wing Oval Office, complete with a copy of the office’s famous desk.

“Glynn was extremely patriotic, and he just has a wonderful collection of presidential memorabilia,” said Bernie Mahowald, who built the room for Crooks, appropriately, on the west side of his house.

While that room has drawn local and national media attention, the rest of the house has rooms honoring Presidents Ronald Reagan and John Kennedy, as well as the U.S. armed forces.

“I hope they will carry on with Glynn’s work there and turn it into a museum, because there is not another one like it,” said Mahowald.

For more than 25 years, Crooks was chairman of the Shakopee Pow Wow or Wacipi, which is the Dakota word for “they dance.” It has become one of the largest annual powwows in the Midwest.

Crooks learned the tradition in his teens, taught by parents Amos and Rosemma Crooks, who worked to reintroduce the dance in the 1960s.

His father served as the first vice chairman of the tribe after its sovereign status was recognized by the federal government in 1969.

In that year, Crooks graduated from Shakopee High School. He soon enlisted in the U.S. Navy, serving for six years during the Vietnam War as an administrative clerk on five different ships.

Crooks himself was elected tribe vice chairman and served for 16 years, without taking vacation, until he retired from the post in 2012.

“As a tribal leader and the head of our organization he made people feel comfortable,” said Crooks-Stratton. “He definitely is going to be missed. He already is missed.”

Crooks is survived by adopted brother, Jim Muelken, and adopted sons Avery White Lightning and Eric Rolfshus.

Services will be held at 11 a.m. Monday at the Tiowakan Spiritual Center in Prior Lake for immediate family, community members and local dignitaries. Those outside of Glynn’s immediate family are invited to view a live broadcast of the funeral in the Minnetonka ballroom of Mystic Lake Center in Prior Lake.

Glenn Howatt • 612-673-7192

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