NIAGARA FALL, NY – United South and Eastern Tribes, Incorporated is creating an honor, which will be awarded annually, for lifetime achievement and service to the organization and Indian Country. USET’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.
The inaugural USET Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Tunica-Biloxi Tribe of Louisiana Chairman Earl Barbry Sr. As the first recipient, USET has also named the honor the Earl Barbry Sr. Lifetime Achievement Award.
Tribal leaders gave their personal honors to Chairman Barbry. USET President Brian Patterson stated, “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.”
Poarch Band of Creek Indians council member and former USET President Eddie Tullis added to Patterson comments. “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 helped pave the way 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.”
Jena Band of Choctaw Tribal Chief B. Cheryl Smith told that Barbry has been a mentor to her.
She stated, “You (Chairman Barbry) have grown Tunica-Biloxi over the years to what it is today. You are the best.”
Chief Smith also related to the USET audience that Barbry has helped foster other Tribes. “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).”
Former Coushatta Chairman Ernest Sickey Sr. said Chairman Barbry’s leadership has inspired Indian Country. “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.”
Chairman Barbry joined the USET meeting via video conference from Louisiana while USET awarded the Lifetime Achievement award that bears his name. He also watched as several letters from members of the U.S. Congress praising his leadership were read.
Tunica-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.”
Chairman Barbry was raised on the Tunica-Biloxi Reservation in Marksville, La. He learned early that he was part of a clan unique to the area. Under his leadership, the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe of Louisiana received federal recognition in September 1981.
Chairman Barbry was elected Tribal Chairman in 1978 and was appointed as Tribal Administrator that same year. He has served in these capacities to this day. Under his leadership, amazing changes have taken place. Where once there were barren fields and wooded areas with a few shanties scattered about, one may now see a unique and 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. Tribal landholdings have also significantly increased during Barbry’s tenure as Chairman.
Barbry is a nationally known American Indian leader, serving on the USET board, and he also has a leadership role in the Louisiana Inter-Tribal Council, an organization that serves federal and state-recognized Indian communities.
Barbry is descended from a long, unbroken line of Tunica-Biloxi chiefs. His grandfather, Elijah Barbry, was the first activist chief in Louisiana to attempt to get a federal response to the needs of the Louisiana Indian people.
Under Barbry’s leadership, 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.
Chairman Barbry has overseen the construction of major housing developments, paved roads, tribal center, court complex, welfare office, a hotel-casino recreation complex and a new multi-million dollar cultural and education center.
Barbry was named the recipient of the Avoyellean (A-VOY-EL-E-UHN) of the Year Award in 1993 by the Avoyelles Journal, the highest award given in the parish. In 1996, the Marksville Chamber of Commerce named him Minority Businessman of the Year. He received the 2005 Leadership Award of the National Indian Gaming Association. In 2006, he was named a Louisiana Legend by Louisiana Public Broadcasting in recognition of his cultural, educational and economic contributions to the region and the state. He was the first American Indian to receive this honor.
In December 2011, Chairman Barbry was awarded an honorary doctorate of humane letters by Northwestern State University during its fall commencement exercises.
Chairman Barbry is married to Gail Kelone Barbry. They have two sons and two grandchildren.