Two years after Quapaw Nation voters ousted their longtime Business Committee chairman and secretary-treasurer — who have since been charged with financial crimes in tribal court — new Chairman Joseph Tali Byrd and new Secretary-Treasurer Guy Barker are facing challengers in their reelection campaigns, which will conclude Saturday. Another incumbent member of the Quapaw Nation Business Committee is also being challenged.
Comprised of seven members, the Business Committee is the principal governing body for the tribe. The board is led by a chairman, a vice chairman and a secretary-treasurer.
Members are elected to two-year terms, and this is the first time the chairman and secretary-treasurer positions have come up for election since former Chairman John Berrey and former Secretary-Treasurer Tamara Smiley-Reeves were accused of embezzling $7 million from the tribe.
While Berrey and Smiley-Reeves face criminal charges in tribal court, they have also sued Byrd and Barker for slander and libel after they commissioned a publicly presented PowerPoint in October 2020 that accused Berrey and Smiley-Reeves of financial mismanagement. The PowerPoint was created and presented by another defendant in the lawsuit, Michael Crump, the owner of Innovative Gaming Solutions. (Former University of Oklahoma football coach Barry Switzer, who appeared in advertisements promoting Quapaw casinos during Berrey and Smiley-Reeves’ tenure, is also a plaintiff in the lawsuit.)
The Quapaw Nation is one of six sovereign tribal nations to have its historic reservation affirmed following the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in McGirt v. Oklahoma.
The election will be held on Saturday, July 23, at the Quapaw Tribal Complex. Polls are open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The following information about candidates was gathered from publicly available sources.
Joseph Tali Byrd (incumbent)
Background: Byrd is from the Buffalo Clan of the Quapaw Nation. He was elected chairman in 2020, defeating longtime Chairman John Berrey. After his first year in office, Byrd said accomplishments of the Business Committee under his leadership included opening a $285 million casino project, distribution of $20 million in COVID relief funds, live-steaming all committee meetings, and creating the tribe’s first youth council.
On Facebook, Byrd said the U.S. Supreme Court decision in McGirt v. Oklahoma upheld what Quapaw citizens knew was true: “Limitation of state authority in Indian Country is not novel, it’s just been incorrectly applied for the last hundred years.”
Byrd graduated from Northeastern State University with a bachelor’s in business administration. In 2020, he completed his juris doctorate at the University of New Mexico.
Platform: When he first ran for office in 2020, Byrd said on Facebook, “We need strong and transparent leadership that looks after the [interests] of all our people, not just the few at the top. We need leadership that ensures we continue growing services and programs for our citizens, we need better health care for our elders and for our youth, and better housing assistance for everyone experiencing financial distress.” In a letter released after he won the position of chairman, Byrd said that he was committed to “protecting tribal assets” and “exercising tribal sovereignty.” In 2022, Byrd said he supports constitutional reform of the tribe’s government.
Social media: Facebook
Background: Shapp is from the Elk Clan of the Quapaw Nation. After graduating from Missouri State Southern College in 1992 with a bachelor’s in criminal justice administration, he spent 26 years in federal law enforcement, including 10 years with the Bureau of Indian Affairs and 16 with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Platform: In a survey submitted to the Quapaw Post, Shapp said that his main concern is improving communication between the Business Committee and members of the tribe. He claims the “current perception of the Business Committee… [is that they’re] not available to the people.” A few ideas Shapp has to make the committee more accessible include moving the chairman’s office to Quapaw and creating open meetings between the chairman and the citizens twice a month. The matters in the nation that Shapp most wishes to improve are “education, elders, public safety, the environment, wildlife, and how we treat our employees.”
Social media: Facebook
Guy Barker (incumbent)
Background: Barker is from the Buffalo Clan is Byrd’s cousin. He graduated from Oklahoma State University with a bachelor’s in biochemical engineering, and he later received a law degree from Oklahoma City University. Barker was elected secretary-treasurer in 2020 after running a joint campaign with Byrd. Barker was named Tribal Executive of the Year by the Native American Finance Officers Association for his work in 2021, when he refinanced two of the tribe’s casino properties.
Barker, whose business interests are in the oil and gas and agriculture sectors, was one of many candidates who ran for office in Oklahoma’s 2nd Congressional District. (Avery Frix and Josh Brecheen advanced from the district’s primary in June and will face off in August.)
Platform: In 2020, Barker said his priority as secretary-treasurer was “to serve with ethical and dignified leadership while providing tribal members with long-absent transparency.” Barker said his education in law helps qualify him for the position, adding that “I see no higher calling as an attorney than to zealously advocate for my O-Gah-Pah Nikashi (Quapaw People).”
In 2022, he told the Quapaw Post that he wants to create more financial transparency for all tribal businesses and enterprises. He also said that, while his first term was spent “cleaning up the mess of a previous 20-year administration,” he intends for his next term to be more focused on new initiatives.
Social media: Facebook
Kathryn ‘Wena’ Supernaw
Background: Supernaw is from the Snake Clan of the Quapaw Nation. Her great-great-grandfather was Louis Angel, also known as Tall Chief, who was the last hereditary chief of the tribe. Supernaw graduated from George Mason University with a degree in accounting, and she retired in 2020 after working for MetLife for 30 years. She previously ran to be a member of the Business Committee in 2021.
Platform: On her Facebook, Supernaw says she supports government reform within the tribe in order to make the Business Committee more accountable to the Quapaw people. She advocates for the creation of a 10-year strategic plan for the tribe, prioritizing “a balanced approach toward wellness, culture, business growth and expense management.” Supernaw says that, if elected, she would treat all tribal members with “respect, impartiality, openness, and humility.” She also says she believes it is important that the secretary-treasurer gives their “undivided attention” to the position.
Social media: Facebook
Lloyd Buffalo (incumbent)
Background: Buffalo is a member of the Buffalo Clan of the Quapaw Nation. According to the Quapaw Post, Buffalo has held every position on the Business Committee at least once.
Platform: Buffalo has said members of the committee currently have a “my way or no way attitude,” and he has called for more cooperation. He says that the committee should also see itself first and foremost as a governing body and try to remove itself from the tribe’s day-to-day operations. He says that the three most critical needs facing the tribe are housing, education and mental health services.
Buffalo’s Facebook page only contains posts from a five-day period ahead of the July 2010 election. In one post, he refers to himself as a “progressive traditionalist” who cares about “keeping our traditions in mind as we move forward as a progressive tribe.” In the same Facebook post, Buffalo criticized then-Chairman John Berrey as “draining the nation of money” and having “compromised values and trust.”
Background: Shawnee is a second cousin of Shapp. His father was the chairman of the Shawnee Tribe for 18 years, and two of his aunts previously served on the Business Committee. For the past 11 years, he has worked as a sales coordinator for Enterprise Holdings. Shawnee has also been the committee chairman of the Quapaw Tribal Pow-Wow for the past decade.
Platform: According to a candidate form submitted to the Quapaw Post, Shawnee’s chief concern is the tribe’s debt. He says that if the debt were paid off, new profits could be used to increase benefits to tribal members through education, housing, and social services reform.
Social media: LinkedIn