On May 14, the United South and Eastern Tribes, Inc. presented its inaugural USET Lifetime Achievement Award to Earl Barbry Sr., Tunica-Biloxi Tribe of Louisiana chairman.
The award was also named in his honor as the Earl Barbry Sr. Lifetime Achievement Award and will be given annually to a recipient who has shown a lifetime achievement and service to the organization and Indian country. A USET press release said the organization’s goal “is to recognize not only outstanding achievements by an individual within their tribe, but to honor leadership and advocacy to fellow Indian nations to promote and protect sovereignty and lift the bitter yoke of poverty.”
Brian Patterson, USET president, gave a personal honor to Chairman Barbry saying, “Your demonstration of leadership of your leadership for your people and all of Indian country has earned my utmost respect. I commend you for your years of service and honor to your sacred duties.”
“Earl is one of the quietest, yet most effective leaders in Indian country,” Eddie Tullis, Poarch Band of Creek Indians council member and former USET president, added to Patterson’s comments. Tullis went on to talk about the struggle for his tribe’s fight for federal recognition and the help of people like Barbry and USET to teach them what was needed. “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,” Tullis said.
Barbry who was raised on the Tunica-Biloxi Reservation in Marksville, Louisiana, was elected tribal chairman in 1978 and was appointed as Tribal Administrator the same year. Three years later he led the tribe to its federal recognition status in September of 1981. Barbry continues his roles as chairman and administrator for the tribe to this day.
In the 34 years he’s served as chairman the tribe has seen many changes including a modern housing development, Tribal Administrative Office, a Health Department and Social Services Office, Gaming Board and Gaming Commission Office, and Tribal Police and Court Building. He has also been responsible for ta significant increase of tribal land holdings since 1978.
According to the USET press release Barbry’s leadership led to “the Tunica-Biloxi repatriated artifacts looted from their 18th century cemetery near St. Francisville. A court action initiated from Tunica-Biloxi helped build the foundation for the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.”
Tunic-Biloxi Vice Chairman Marshall Pierite noted chairman Barbry’s work ethic and vision. “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,” Pierite said at the meeting.
Barbry serves in leadership roles on the USET board, and with the Louisiana Inter-Tribal Council. He’s a nationally known American Indian leader who is descended from a long unbroken line of Tunica-Biloxi chiefs according to USET.
Barbry who was not in attendance, joined the USET meeting via video conference from Louisiana for the honor. He watched as tribal leaders continued to share their stories of working with Barbry, along with letters from U.S. Congress members praising his leadership.
Cheryl Smith, Jena Band of Choctaw tribal chief, shared how Barbry was a mentor to her, “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 (Chairman Barbry).”
The tribal chairman has been the recipient of numerous awards that include the 1993 Avoyellean of the Year Award by the Avoyelles Journal; the 1996 Minority Businessman of the Year Award by the Marksville Chamber of Commerce; the 2005 Leadership Award of the National Indian Gaming Association; and the 2006 he was named a Louisiana Legend by Louisiana Public Broadcasting. Barbry received an honorary doctorate of humane letters by Northwestern State University in 2011. He was also honored by the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs in November of 2012 as one of several Native leaders dedicated to serving their tribes according to avoyellestoday.com.
In December 2010, he was one of 12 tribal leaders selected to meet with President Barack Obama during the White House Tribal Nations Conference according to kalb.com. The Conference has been a mainstay of the Obama administration in hopes of improving the government-to-government relationship between the United States and federally recognized tribes.
Chairman Barbry is married to Gail Kelone Barbry. They have two sons and two grandchildren.