Two of the three incumbents seeking reelection to Quapaw Nation Business Committee positions were ousted by voters Saturday, but Chairman Joseph Tali Byrd secured a second term.
The seven-member Business Committee serves as the Quawpaw Nation’s principal governing body and is led by a chairman, a vice-chairman and a secretary-treasurer. Terms last two years, and elections are staggered so that three positions are up for election during even years and the other four are up during odd years.
Kathryn “Wena” Supernaw and Mike Shawnee are the two newcomers who prevailed Saturday. Supernaw defeated Guy Barker for the position of secretary-treasurer, a position Barker had held for two years. Barker also previously ran in a packed race for Oklahoma’s 2nd Congressional District, but he did not receive enough votes to reach the Aug. 23 GOP runoff.
Shawnee defeated Lloyd Buffalo, who has been on the Business Committee for nearly 50 years. During his campaign, Shawnee said his primary concern is the tribe’s debt. In June, he told the Quapaw Post “when the debts are paid down to a reasonable level, then we could look at more ways to help our tribal members” through housing, education and social service improvements.
Byrd fended off challenger Buddy Shapp, who recently returned to Quapaw after 26 years in federal law enforcement, a job which required him to live across the country, most recently in Anchorage, Alaska. On Saturday night, Shapp congratulated Byrd, Supernaw and Shawnee on Facebook.
“I look forward to life back in Quapaw, and I plan to stay active with the Quapaw Nation,” Shapp said.
Attempts to reach Byrd and Supernaw prior to the publication of this story were unsuccessful.
Barker: Remember ‘wrongs committed’ at Tar Creek
When Byrd and Barker were elected as chairman and secretary-treasurer in 2020, they ousted John Berrey and Tamara Smiley-Reeves, who had been in office since 2002 and 2004, respectively. Berrey and Smiley-Reeves were later accused of embezzling $7 million from the tribe. Berrey faces 11 criminal charges and Smiley-Reeves faces seven charges in the Quapaw Nation, which is one of the Nine Tribes headquartered in northeast Oklahoma’s Ottawa County.
In June, Barker said his tenure was devoted to “cleaning up the mess of a previous 20-year administration.” A little less than a year after their defeat in 2020, Berrey and Smiley-Reeves sued Byrd and Barker for a PowerPoint presentation they commissioned and approved in October 2020 which accused Berrey and Smiley-Reeves of financial mismanagement. (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.)
Monday, Barker sent a statement to NonDoc regarding his electoral defeat. He referenced the tribe’s ongoing efforts to address financial issues and noted the “the environmental catastrophe and the displacement of our Quapaw people” owing to the Tar Creek superfund site:
I came up just short of being elected to a second term as secretary-treasurer, but I’m proud of the race I ran. More importantly, I’m proud of the legacy I leave after two very short, very impactful years. Voters repeatedly said paying down the debt our previous administration racked up on Downstream Casino Resort in northeast Oklahoma was a priority and we did that.
I’m proud to say first improving our bond ratings then refinancing Downstream and Saracen Casino Resort in Pine Bluff, Arkansas are my greatest accomplishments. My peers in tribal finance agreed and earlier this year I was named Tribal Executive of the Year by the Native American Finance Officers Association. This will not only save the Quapaw Nation hundreds of millions of dollars over the next decade, but it will also be transformational for Quapaw citizens through better health care, increased education funding and other life-changing services.
I also worked closely with our congressional delegation on legislation to end long-running issues and lawsuits over the environmental catastrophe and the displacement of our Quapaw people at Tar Creek. It’s an issue that still has tremendous health and social impacts on our nation. As a family that still personally deals with health impacts from Tar Creek, I’m humbled to play a small part in the restitution of the wrongs committed against our tribe and this local community.
I’ve proudly stood up for tribal sovereignty in the face of attacks from the state of Oklahoma and special interest groups, even when it was unpopular. Unfortunately, the assault on tribal sovereignty is far from over, but my defense of our inherent right to self-governance will not stop after I leave office.
Although the last two years have been a whirlwind, I’ve enjoyed every moment of working for the Quapaw people. I’ve especially treasured the time working alongside my cousin Joseph (Tali Byrd). I’m proud of what we accomplished together and as a nation. I now leave a solid foundation behind for my successor, and I wish her continued success.