Agua Caliente Tribal Council Leader Dies at 80

Agua Caliente Tribal Council Leader Dies at 80

News Staff

Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians Tribal Council Vice Chairman Larry N. Olinger passed away this morning, Monday July 15, 2019.  He was 80 years old.

“Our Vice Chairman was a dedicated, caring leader who made us all better,” Tribal Chairman Jeff L. Grubbe said. “As a distinguished leader of this Tribe, he always asked the tough questions to ensure every single decision we made as a governing body was for the betterment of this sovereign tribal government.  Today, we hold him and his wife Susan close to our heart.”

Vice Chairman Olinger served on Tribal Council as the Vice Chairman since September 2012.

Vice Chairman Olinger was born on Oct. 14, 1938.  He grew up in Palm Springs and later in Orange County where he loved spending time at the beach and playing sports such as baseball, basketball, football and track. Throughout his life, he spent many years breeding and racing thoroughbred horses and had an ongoing love for them. He spent the early part of his career working in the defense industry.

He was always proud of his Native American heritage.

He became interested in tribal issues and tribal government in his early 20s.  “I was drawn to the idea that, if you dedicate yourself, you can make a real positive difference,” Olinger said during an interview for the Tribe’s magazine, Me Yah Whae, where he described himself as honest, dedicated and open to growth.  “But you continue to learn, as long as you stay open to growth, and lifelong learning is vital.”

He was first elected to Tribal Council as a Tribal Council Member in 1961. He subsequently served as Secretary/Treasurer in 1969, and as Chairman of the Tribal Council in 1970-71. Throughout his life, he served in every tribal council position.

He also served on numerous tribal boards, and was the first Chairman of the Agua Caliente Development Authority when it was established in 1989.  He was especially proud of the work he and other tribal leaders at the time dedicated to establishing gaming as a tribal business enterprise.

“I can look back on when I was a (Council) member in 1961 and think, ‘We had so little then.’ What evolved after that – what brought us up to date – was the recognition of our sovereignty and gaming. It changed the Tribe in that we’re able to provide for our members now, the way they should be provided for, and it has made a tremendous difference in our lives,” he said in a 2014 article in Me Yah Whae.

Vice Chairman Olinger served on the Board of Directors for the Native American Rights Fund as well as the Governing Board for the State of California Coachella Valley Mountains Conservancy, which works to protect the natural and cultural resources of the Coachella Valley.

Vice Chairman Olinger is survived by his wife Susan Olinger. His decades-long marriage to his wife is what he often referred to as his proudest achievement.