The following are statements made by people throughout Indian country on the passing of Earl Barbry Sr., who was 62 when he walked on July 31 after a long battle with cancer. He served as chairman of the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe of Louisiana since 1978 and will be missed by many.
“Chairman Barbry was a great family man and respected leader, as well as a father figure to many. He distinguished himself in his service to the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe, the local community, and across Indian Country and the United States. We will always be thankful for Chairman Barbry’s vision, hard work, and leadership. He will be deeply missed by all, but his legacy will continue to live on. We express our deepest sympathy to Chairman’s family and offer our prayers and thoughts during this difficult time.”
—Tunica-Biloxi Tribal Council
“Having given a lifetime of dedication and distinguished service to the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe of Louisiana, Chairman Barbry will long be remembered as one of the great visionary and courageous leaders Indian Country has produced throughout history. He was a quiet and respectful man full of action who willingly shouldered the weight of responsible leadership, and worked tirelessly over the years to improve the lives of his people.
“As one of Indian Country’s longest serving elected tribal leaders, he successfully represented the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe at the highest levels of national American Indian discourse and policymaking, but did not forget the importance of family and tradition. His strong, faithful advocacy for tribal sovereignty and self-determination was reflected in his fight for and winning of federal recognition status for the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe.
“Thanks to his strong drive to build the future of the Tunica-Biloxi people, Chairman Barbry has left as his legacy a strong community that can be proud of its accomplishments and progress. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Barbry Family and the Tunica-Biloxi community.”
—Kevin K. Washburn, Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs
“The hearts of the USET Nations are heavy and saddened on this day due to the passing of a beloved and treasured leader… Chairman Barbry has made a great and lasting impact on many Tribes and individuals in Indian Country.
“His leadership, vision, and passion to advance, strengthen, and rebuild Tribal Nations have set a shining example of unity, empowerment, and compassion… While the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe of Louisiana is saddened by the loss of such a great leader, it is USET’s hope that hearts and souls in Marksville, Louisiana and throughout Indian Country are warmed by the empowering legacy Chairman Barbry leaves. Our future generations will grow from his leadership, and his work and spirit will no doubt feed the next seven generations of American Indians.
—Brian Patterson, USET President
“You’re [Barbry] a man with great vision. You had the vision to bring a casino to Marksville. I thought that would never happen. It’s your influence and leadership that has taken us from a poverty stricken community. It has been you that has made a great impact on all of our people.”
—Marshall Pierite, Tunica-Biloxi Vice Chairman
“He was my Chairman and the older brother I never had. He was a gift to the Tunica-Biloxi people. There will never be someone like him for us ever again. We are so broken hearted.”
—Brenda Lintinger, Tunica-Biloxi Council Member
“Earl is one of the quietest, yet most effective leaders in Indian Country. I remember my Tribe had not finalized the requirements to be federally recognized. Through great leadership of people like Earl the way was paved for our Tribe to attend USET as observers and learn. He and other Tribes knew we deserved recognition. I distinctly remember Earl saying things are going to get better for Indian people as we are developing a whole new generation of leaders. Chairman Barbry has solved a whole lot of problems but not overnight.”
—Eddie Tullis, Poarch Band of Creek Indians Council Member and former USET President
“You [Chairman Barbry] have grown Tunica-Biloxi over the years to what it is today. You are the best. You did a lot for other people. Even when we [Jena Band of Choctaw] needed it, you paid our airfare so we could participate in things like USET. I’ve learned a lot from you.”
—B. Cheryl Smith, Jena Band of Choctaw Tribal Chief
“Earl you have given so much of your life. How can we ever repay it? When we first started out we had nothing. You have spoken the same language over the years when you first started until today. ‘Give all you can to your people.’ You have done that. You have always spoken the same language. Because of you there is hope.”
—Ernest Sickey Sr., Former Coushatta Chairman
“If the measure of a man’s life is the footprints he leaves behind in the lives of those he met along his journey, we can all find comfort as we mourn knowing that Chairman Barbry is walking on having gifted the world with immeasurable impact to so many.”
—Kitcki Carroll, USET Executive Director
“On behalf of the IHS, we are very saddened by this news. We have lost a strong advocate for Indian health issues. This is a significant loss for Indian Country. We extend our heartfelt prayers to his friends and family.”
—Martha A. Ketcher, Indian Health Service Nashville Office Area Director
“The staff of the Bureau of Indian Affairs Eastern Regional Office mourns the loss of a strong and well regarded leader. Chairman Barbry’s leadership, vision, and courage contributed to the strengthening of his Tribe and inspired many others. We should all draw great strength from his legacy as we seek to move all Tribes forward with the same spirit as Earl J. Barbry, Sr.”
—Franklin Keel, Bureau of Indian Affairs Eastern Regional Office Director