The National Indian Gaming Association is sad to announce that Max Osceola Jr., the former tribal council member of the tribal council of the Seminole Tribe of Florida, died October 8th from complications due to COVID-19 at Cleveland Clinic in Weston, Fla.

Osceola, 70, served for more than two decades as a tribal council representative on the Seminole Tribal Council from the Hollywood Seminole Reservation, according to a Tribe spokesman.

National Indian Gaming Association Chairman Ernie Stevens, Jr., said, "Max was a great mentor, friend, brother and tribal leader. He had a tremendous passion dedicated to advancing not only his Seminole people but all of Indian country. His passing is a tremendous loss for us all.

"He was a true gentleman with high standards, who believed in working hard for our Native American communities, especially our youth. He not only worked towards the betterment of their livelihood, but the importance of their education was always his top priority."

Chairman Stevens, who also serves on the American Indian Graduate Center (AIGC) board, shared that in memory of Osceola, AIGC has established the Max Osceola Memorial Scholarship Fund to honor his dedication to advancing educational opportunities for the Native American youth.

In 2007, Osceola joined forces Chairman Stevens and wrestling legend Hulk Hogan in developing the Dream Seekers Foundation, which recognized students that are exceptionally talented and demonstrate skills that positively represent the Native American community.

According to a statement from the tribe announcing his passing, Osceola held the elected position of Tribal Council Representative from the Hollywood Seminole Reservation from 1985 through 2010. He was elected and re-elected to 13 consecutive 2-year terms for the duration of his tenure. He served on the Seminole Tribal Council, the 5-member elected governing body of the Seminole Tribe of Florida, during a time of major expansion of Seminole Gaming, which has grown to become one of the world’s most successful gaming operations.

Osceola often acted as an ambassador of the Seminole Tribe to the South Florida community and beyond. He was active in the region’s tourism industry and in many community organizations that positively impacted members of the Seminole Tribe and the larger population in South Florida, including the Boys and Girls Clubs, Ann Storck Center and Winterfest. He supported the Victory Junction Camp, a North Carolina nonprofit camp for children with serious medical conditions. He was also an active motorcyclist and participated in the Kyle Petty Charity Ride Across America.

He was perhaps best known for his smile, infectious laugh and constant barrage of quips and one-liners, often referring to “BC” as the time “before casinos” at the Seminole Tribe. His wife, Marge, said Max’s Seminole name translates to “storyteller,” a name he lived up to throughout his life.

At the 2006 New York press conference announcing the Seminole Tribe’s purchase of Hard Rock International, he uttered an original quote that was literally heard around the world when he said, “Our ancestors sold Manhattan for trinkets. Today, with the acquisition of the Hard Rock Cafes, we’re going to buy it back one hamburger at a time.”

Max Osceola was born in August 1950 in Hollywood, Fla., and grew up on the Hollywood Seminole Reservation. He graduated from McArthur High School in Hollywood and attended the University of Tampa, where he played college football. He transferred to Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College in Miami, Okla., where Osceola and his team won a national college football championship. He ultimately attended and graduated from the University of Miami and was a fervent supporter of Miami Hurricanes Football.

Osceola was most proud of his impact on the education of members of the Seminole Tribe of Florida, which extended full educational opportunities and benefits to all tribal members during his time as Tribal Council Representative. Osceola was inducted into the Broward Education Foundation Hall of Fame in 2017.

In addition to his wife, Marge, Max is survived by his son Max Osceola III, daughter Melissa Osceola DeMayo, daughter Meaghan Osceola, son Jeff Pelage, as well as several sisters and brothers, grandchildren and extended family.

Funeral services will be private. A celebration of life will take place at some future time. The family suggests donations to honor Max Osceola through the Max Osceola Memorial Scholarship Fund at the American Indian Graduate Center, the center for native scholarships, at www.aigcs.org.