Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities Appoints Tunica-Biloxi Leader as Board Member 

John Barbry brings decades of experience to prestigious organization that seeks to expand opportunities throughout Louisiana  

The Tunica-Biloxi Tribe of Louisiana is proud to announce that the Director of Development & Programming, John Barbry, has been selected to the Board of Directors of Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities (LEH). Barbry will join a dynamic group of servant leaders for the next three years. 

LEH oversees and supports not only Louisiana’s history but also the state’s diverse and vibrant culture. The organization’s mission is to partner with communities, institutions and individuals to explore Louisiana’s rich history and realize every Louisianan’s full potential through the humanities. 

“I am profoundly honored to be part of an organization that works to enrich the body and soul of our community,” said John Barbry. “I look forward to working with a group of like-minded individuals who share that passion.” 

Similar to the mission of LEH, John Barbry has spent years preserving the history of the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe for generations to come. He has served as director for the Tunica-Biloxi Language & Culture Revitalization Program (LCRP) since 2014. In 2016, he was appointed to manage the Tunica-Biloxi Education Department to provide tribal youth with resources needed to stay in school, perform better in school, become college and career-ready, and graduate. He then served as Research Supervisor in the manuscripts division at the Historic New Orleans Collection. Barbry was the first Native American appointed archivist at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian in 1993. He earned a B.A. in Music Education from McNeese State University and an M.A. in History from the University of New Orleans. 

“I can think of no better individual than John Barbry for his honor,” said Tunica-Biloxi Chairman Marshall Pierite. “He is dedicated to the history and culture of our tribe and Louisiana, and will bring a high-level of expertise to the LEH Board of Directors. I know he will make the Tunica-Biloxi tribal community proud.” 

According to the LEH, their focus is to work with federal, state and local governments to improve educational outcomes and preserve the state’s cultural traditions. The organization has established a strong reputation with corporations and foundations and is trusted to deliver responsive, sustainable programs for and with Louisianans, such as the now-franchised Prime Time series of programs and 64 Parishes magazine and online encyclopedia. Also joining Barbry to the Board of Directors is Laura Prisco, the Coordinator of Programs and Services for fine arts at St. Tammany Parish Public Schools and is also the Chair of the St. Tammany Commission on Cultural Affairs. 

“Since 1971 the LEH has been recognized for its enduring statewide impact, including more than $132 million invested in Louisiana communities,” said Miranda Restovic, executive director and president of the LEH. “We look forward to continuing to seek out new opportunities to serve Louisiana alongside Mr. Barbry and Mrs. Prisco and are grateful for their passion and commitment to our state.” 

Barbry’s term on the LEH Board of Directors started on November 1, 2023.  

Paragon Casino Resort Invites Guests to Play Tic-Tac-Toe Against a Live Chicken

‘Chick-Tac-Toe’ is an interactive experience challenging guests to play the classic game of

Tic-Tac-Toe and triumph over a farm bird.

Paragon Casino Resort invites guests to face off against a live chicken in a limited-time experience unlike any other. “Chick-Tac-Toe” allows guests to play the classic game of Tic-Tac-Toe against a professionally trained chicken for the chance to win up to $500 free play.

The Casino Chicken relaxes inside its custom-built “Thinkin’ Booth” until a worthy opponent accepts the Chick-Tac-Toe challenge. The challenge then becomes a back-and-forth game marking Xs and Os with the Casino Chicken pecking out its next move thanks to a special punch pad inside the booth. If the guest beats the Casino Chicken, he/she will win a Chick-Tac-Toe T-shirt, special beads and up to $500 free play. If the chicken lays an egg while a guest is playing, the prize for the guest will be $100 free play.

Guests who lose will receive a “second chance” entry form to bring back to the casino every Saturday by 5 p.m. to try to win $250 free play.

“Our promise to any visitor who walks into our casino is that they will leave with a memorable experience and have a great time,” said Paragon Vice President of Marketing Joan Botts.  “Chick Tac Toe will do just that! Our guests will be able to tell all of their friends and family about this fun promotion.”

The chicken challenge begins on Thursday, November 2 and runs through Thursday, December 28. The promotion takes place DAILY, Sundays through Thursdays from 12-8 p.m. and Fridays through Saturdays from 2-10 p.m. Guests will swipe their Club Paragon card at any promotional kiosk to print out their voucher to play the game. The first play requires 75 points, each additional play per day (up to two additional plays) will take 50 points.


The Tunica-Biloxi Tribe of Louisiana is hosting its 7th Annual Intertribal Basketry Summit on Saturday, October 28th, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Tunica-Biloxi Gymnasium. The Tunica Biloxi Language & Culture Revitalization Program extends an open invitation to basket weavers for a day of weaving and basketry demonstrations from regional Native American communities.

The Summit will be an informal forum allowing weavers to talk about their own techniques and elements of their culture represented in the craft. Beginners and observers are encouraged to attend. Weavers from regional Native American communities will be demonstrating weaving tradition using longleaf pine needles, river cane and palmetto leaves.

Viewing of baskets is open and FREE to the public. A $25 registration fee is required for those wanting to learn pine needle weaving or display their own baskets. (Lunch and basket materials included). Please contact Emilie Barbry to register at emilie.barbry@tunica.org or (318) 427-7430.

Paragon Casino Resort To Host Exclusive Early Premiere Party for “57 Seconds”

Paragon Casino Resort and the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe of Louisiana invite tribal citizens and employees to attend the Exclusive Early Premiere of “57 Seconds” on Thursday, September 28, at the Paragon Cinema. The movie was largely filmed in Lafayette, Louisiana but includes exciting scenes filmed inside Paragon Casino featuring Paragon associates as extras. A-list Hollywood actors Morgan Freeman, Josh Hutcherson and Greg Germann star in the film. Those invited to Paragon’s movie premiere will get the unique experience to view “57 Seconds” a whole day before its big U.S. debut.
“57 Seconds” is an action thriller with science fiction undertones based on the short story “Fallen Angel” by E.C. Tubb. The movie centers around Franklin Fox (Hutcherson), a tech blogger who finds a mysterious ring that can turn back the clock by 57 seconds. With the help of a technology guru (Freeman), Franklin decides to use the ring to take down the leader of a major pharmaceutical company (Germann) who he believes is responsible for his sister’s death.
Ticketholders for the Sept. 28 premiere may show their tickets at the Atrium Bar to gain access to the exclusive pre-show reception from 5 – 7 p.m.  

Tunica-Biloxi Tribe of Louisiana’s Chairman Marshall Pierite Announces His Candidacy for President of the National Congress of American Indians

Pierite brings over thirty years of experience in Tribal administration, economic development, community development, and elected leadership.  

Marshall Pierite, the Chairman and CEO of the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe of Louisiana, has declared his candidacy for the presidency of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), the organization that serves as the voice for over 570 tribal nations across the country. His campaign focuses on prioritizing the needs and voices of all tribal nations, with a focus on supporting Tribal women and youth, protecting Tribal lands and waterways, and upholding treaty rights. 

The 80th Annual Convention and Marketplace of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) will take place in New Orleans, Louisiana, from November 12 – 17, 2023. The Convention serves as a platform for NCAI’s diverse membership, including delegates from numerous tribal nations and individual Indian members nationwide, to gather and engage in various activities. Notably, the Convention will witness the election of a new president who will guide NCAI’s endeavors over the next two years.  

If elected as president, Chairman Pierite, a U.S. Marine Corps Veteran, will bring over thirty years of experience in Tribal administration, economic development, community development, and elected leadership. Pierite’s demonstrated leadership and advocacy have already led to policy wins, partnerships, and additional resources directed to all Tribes.  

“I have full confidence in Chairman Pierite’s ability to serve effectively as NCAI president. His leadership of our tribe has proven consistent, progressive, and efficient,” said Vice Chairman of the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe, Marshall Ray Sampson, Sr. “His candidacy is important not only to our tribe but to communities throughout Avoyelles Parish and Central Louisiana. The support of our local community is what allows us to continue to be successful, and the community’s support during this election would be a driving force behind his potential success.” 

Chairman Pierite’s campaign seeks to strengthen tribal sovereignty, support and provide opportunities for tribal women and youth, protect the environment and traditional lands, address climate change, and promote responsible renewable energy development in collaboration with affected Tribes. 

“I am passionate about finding solutions to problems that have plagued Indian Country for generations, but I believe our Native people have always had the solutions to these challenges, and they have always been rooted in our unique cultures, traditions, and communities,” said Chairman Marshall Pierite. “If elected NCAI president, I will work every day to strengthen tribal sovereignty, which I believe starts with protecting our future by focusing on strengthening support for our women and youth.” 

Pierite’s impressive tenure as the leader of the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe is marked by his exceptional ability to secure substantial grants, totaling over $70 million. His dedication to the tribe’s expansion and welfare is evident through initiatives such as affordable internet access, new housing construction, and elderly care. 

Beyond his local efforts, Chairman Pierite has made significant contributions at the regional and national levels. His advocacy for the interests of Indian Country led to his involvement in the historic signing of the Inflation Reduction Act in Washington, D.C. His achievements garnered him the title of the Native American Finance Officers Association’s Tribal Leader of the Year in 2022, and his recent appointment to the Tribal Intergovernmental Advisory Committee highlights his ability to strengthen the relationship between tribal communities and government agencies. 

Throughout his three-decade-long service to the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe, Chairman Pierite has showcased his expertise in various roles within the tribal government. From driving progress in government operations, budgeting, and economic development to prioritizing transparency and accountability, his exceptional leadership skills and commitment to the tribe’s welfare are evident. Additionally, his focus on tribal youth, diverse economic portfolio, and fostering unity through shared values further demonstrate his dedication to the progress and well-being of the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe. Each of his ventures aligns with his promise of creating unity through shared values of love, respect, and trust. 

“Marshall Pierite’s exemplary leadership has yielded profound transformations throughout his community, the state of Louisiana, and Indian Country, leaving an indelible imprint,” remarked Lora Ann Chaisson, esteemed Principal Chief of the United Houma Nation. “As an extraordinary visionary and catalyst, Marshall possesses the ability to assume the role of NCAI President, effectively championing the rights and aspirations of indigenous people nationwide.” 

Paragon Casino Resort to Host Debate for Upcoming Avoyelles Parish Sheriff’s Race

Candidates will discuss how they plan to overcome challenges the Sheriff’s Office may face to continue their promise to protect and serve Avoyelles Parish

Paragon Casino Resort invites the public to attend the Avoyelles Parish Sheriff Candidate Debate on Monday, October 2, in Paragon’s Mari Showroom. The debate will bring together the qualified candidates on the ballot, including incumbent Avoyelles Parish Sheriff David Dauzat (R), Tunica-Biloxi Police Chief Harold Pierite (D), former Louisiana State Trooper Todd “T-Goo” Gaspard (R) and former Deputy Sean Paul Mayeux (no party). Election Day is Saturday, October 14.

The candidates will discuss day-to-day duties and expectations of the Avoyelles Parish Sheriff’s Office. They will debate strategies that have worked and have not worked in reducing crime and keeping the residents of the Avoyelles Parish communities safe. Candidates are expected to address the current budget and available resources that the Sheriff’s Office has from local and state offices, along with their plan to maintain relationships and cooperation across other Avoyelles Parish departments.

As part of nonstop efforts to help the surrounding communities, one canned food item will be required for admission into the event. All canned food items will be donated by the Tunica-Biloxi Indian Political Action Committee (TBIPAC) to local food pantries and churches.

The Avoyelles Parish Sheriff Candidate Debate begins at 6:00 p.m. on Monday, October 2, 2023, in the Mari Showroom of the Paragon Casino Resort.

Tunica-Biloxi Tribe Hosts Second Annual Rural Economic Development Summit

Civic and business leaders expound on enhancing the quality of life and creating more economic

opportunities in Rural Louisiana

Click here for photos from the 2023 summit

Marksville, LA – (September 15, 2023) – Monday, September 11 and Tuesday, September 12, the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe of Louisiana partnered with the Southern University Law Center (SULC) and the Southern University College of Business University Center for Economic Development in co-hosting the second annual Louisiana Rural and Economic (LaRuE) Development Summit, sponsored by T-Mobile, in Marksville, Louisiana, at Paragon Casino Resort.

Several Louisiana leaders including business executives, industry experts, and state and local elected officials teamed up to educate attendees on better ways to develop and expand the business capabilities of the state’s rural communities. With its extensive agenda featuring panelists and keynote speakers, LaRuE successfully stood by its mission to enhance the quality of rural life by connecting those leaders with business owners, professionals, investors and faculty and students from all Louisiana universities.

Originally debuted in 2019, and subsequently placed on a pandemic-induced hold, LaRuE’s return comes at a critical time for small business owners who are trying to build or rebuild their enterprises in this ever-evolving landscape. To help those individuals, LaRuE’s rundown provided a wide range of topics for discussion including 5G and broadband expansion, technological advancements, agriculture, affordable housing, workforce development and job training programs, accessible healthcare and mental health services, navigating state or federal funding and creating relationships with Native American Tribal Governments.

“For too long, our friends and neighbors living in rural communities have been separated from essential needs and opportunities,” said Marshall Pierite, Chairman of the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe. “Through careful coordination with LaRuE, the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe devotes itself to providing more opportunities, more experiences, more training and a better shot for a fulfilling life to families both in our area and all across Louisiana.”

The Tunica-Biloxi Tribe of Louisiana has long supported and encouraged economic development and growth among Native Americans, including its citizens who reside in rural Louisiana. Already in 2023, the Tribe has secured more than $70 million in grants to assist in stabilizing and propelling its citizens through workforce development training, increased access to the internet and various small business support systems.

Before the two-day summit kicked off, the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe held a free community health fair at Paragon Casino Resort. The public was treated to healthy food options from a lineup of vendors along with being educated on ways to be active and health-conscious every day. To celebrate the health fair, the world-renowned Southern University Human Jukebox Band gave a special performance.

In closing, Chairman Pierite said, “Although the 2023 LaRuE Development Summit is over, providing resources for Native Americans and rural neighbors is never over. We are looking forward to seeing how LaRuE helped boost our communities for the remainder of 2023 and use that information to improve for the 2024 event.”

For more information on Southern University Law Center, visit www.sulc.edu.  

For more information on the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe of Louisiana, visit https://www.tunicabiloxi.org/.

Tunica-Biloxi Tribe of Louisiana Awarded $6.4 Million Grant to Provide New Housing for Tribal Families

$128 Million in Total Awarded to Tribal Communities for the Construction of New Affordable Housing.

The Tunica-Biloxi Tribe of Louisiana was awarded a $6.4 Million grant to build nineteen new, affordable housing units in Marksville, Louisiana, to provide safe, reliable and secure housing opportunities while combatting inequities in the community. U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia L. Fudge announced the distributions last week as part of a $128 Million grant to tribes across the country through the Indian Housing Block Grant project, which funds affordable housing activities including new housing construction, rehabilitation and housing services and more.

“I would like to thank the Secretary of HUD, Marcia Fudge, all of her staff, the Tunica-Biloxi Housing Department, the Tunica-Biloxi grant writing team, and our tribal citizens and their families for all of their patience and support while we address our housing needs and challenges. These funds will allow us to provide an affordable and stable housing environment for nineteen families,” said Tunica-Biloxi Chairman Marshall Pierite.

Chairman Pierite serves on the first-ever Tribal Intergovernmental Advisory Committee (TIAC), created by HUD in 2022. The TIAC is comprised of dozens of tribal leaders who are committed to strengthening the nation-to-nation relationship between HUD and Tribal communities, coordinating policy across all HUD programs, and advising HUD regarding the housing priorities of the American Indian and Alaska Native peoples.

Regarding the creation of adequate housing opportunities, Pierite stated, “Having a roof over your head and walls around you protects us from the elements of nature and creates the solid foundation under your feet that keeps a family together. The stability of a home creates a solid foundation and together as a Nation – through strategic partnerships like these – we create that foundation for all and accomplish great things together.”

The grant will allow the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe of Louisiana to build housing for nineteen families to address the housing shortage and instability that is the result of poor economic conditions and natural disasters. The newly constructed units will consist of multiple floor plans for three-bedroom homes and will have mixed uses including elderly housing, emergency housing, and housing for dislocated tribal citizens and low-income tribal citizens while being ADA accessible.

Project and Construction Director Ron Bordelon will lead the development and construction, utilizing his years of experience including the construction of one new emergency temporary housing unit for tribal members at risk of homelessness due to economic conditions, the COVID-19 pandemic, and/or natural disasters.

The $128 million tranche of funding will be distributed to twenty-two communities through a competitive grant program. View the list of awardees here.

LaRuE Summit Speakers & Agenda Announced

The Tunica-Biloxi Tribe of Louisiana is partnering with the Southern University Law Center (SULC) and the Southern University College of Business University Center for Economic Development to co-host the second annual Louisiana Rural and Economic (LaRuE) Development Summit, sponsored by T-Mobile. The two-day Summit will be held on September 11 & 12 in Marksville at Paragon Casino Resort.

LaRuE keynote speakers and panelists will include business executives, industry experts and state and local elected officials. Check out the list below to see who you’ll hear from in just a few short days!

Click Here for the agenda.

Learn more and register here.

This archaeological site drew pilgrims 2,000 years ago. Now there are big plans for its future.

Photo Credit: STAFF PHOTO BY BRAD BOWIE The Advocate

Originally published on NOLA.com

If you pass the casino in Marksville going north on La. 1, turn right by the Dollar General and then drive through a working-class neighborhood toward the oxbow lake known as Old River, you’ll come to an old metal single-bar gate.

Behind that nondescript gate, far off any beaten path, is one of Louisiana’s major historic treasures: a Native American mound complex that dates back two millennia and once may have served as an important ceremonial site.

Since the middle of the last decade, however, the site has been closed to the public, the victim of low visitor numbers, crumbling facilities and dwindling state funding. Its lone building has fallen into disrepair, with shattered display cases, weeds growing in the courtyard and debris strewn about.

Marshall Pierite wants to change that.

Pierite is the chairman of the 1,500-member Tunica-Biloxi Tribe, which is headquartered just a couple miles away and owns the nearby Paragon Casino Resort and reservation.

In 2022, the Tribe acquired the rights to run the mound complex in an agreement with the city of Marksville, which had obtained the land from the state.

For Pierite, it was an important day for the site’s future because of its past. Today’s Tunica-Biloxi is a successor tribe to four earlier tribes — the Tunica, Biloxi, Ofo and Avoyel — that allied with each other in the 18th century and combined in the 19th before eventually gaining federal recognition in 1981. The tribe has a long history in northern Mississippi and central Louisiana. 

“We made a promise to ourselves that if we do reacquire the property that we are going to maintain it and build it up,” Pierite said during a recent tour. “I hear the voices of the blood coming out of the ground.”

A long history

The Marksville mounds are less well known than Louisiana sites like Poverty Point, a sprawling complex in northeast Louisiana that has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site; or those on the bustling campus of LSU, which some have argued may be the oldest man-made structures in the Americas.

Marksville’s 42-acre site includes one semicircular embankment and six mounds along what is known as Old River which during the time they were built around 2,000 years ago would have been the path of the Mississippi River. One of the mounds, known as Mound 4, contained human remains that were mostly excavated a century ago. 

The mounds are commonly dated to what is known as the Hopewell culture, which began around 50 B.C. and lasted about 450 years.

Hopewell sites are distinguished by the construction of elaborate earthworks — often circular, like what is present in Marksville — and by certain pottery designs and burial styles, according to Louisiana State Archaeologist Chip McGimsey, an expert on archaic Native American sites.

The origins of the Hopewell lie far to the north of Marksville, however, probably in the Ohio River Valley, McGimsey said. Some Marksville pottery decorations are virtually indistinguishable from others found as far north as Illinois, he said.

“This is why Marksville is important,” McGimsey said. “It really shows for the first time how connected North America was in the past. It wasn’t little communities isolated from each other.”

The Hopewell people were exchanging raw materials across great distances, traveling along the riverways, he said. They also shared ideas about the cosmos and humans’ role in it.

From one of the six mounds, known as Mound 5, sightlines to other mounds marked the rise and set of the sun, moon and other stars, research has shown.

“In Native American history, this is the first time you see a cultural expression that spans such a large area,” McGimsey said. At least one of the mounds contained human remains.

About 400 or so years after it was constructed, the site was abandoned for reasons that remain unclear.

“Whatever it was that made Hopewell popular, it faded from history and you start to see local traditions spring up again,” McGimsey said.

A personal mission

More than 1,600 years after the site was abandoned, Pierite now sees great potential for its future.

“The plans for the building are to restore it as well as transition some of the educational cultural programs over there,” Pierite said. He also envisions returning the site to its observatory roots by building a “state-of-the-art planetarium.”

It won’t be cheap — Pierite said the costs could run to $5 million, which he hopes to cover through tribal funding and grants.

Pierite’s effort is a nod to his own past.

“My first summer job was actually working here, cutting grass and keeping up the building,” he recalled. Then, in the mid-1970s, the tribe hadn’t yet obtained federal recognition, which didn’t come until 1981. But the site was “well-maintained” Pierite said. 

The Spanish-style white-brick museum building used to house exhibits about Native American culture, art and religion. Today, however, it is in a poor state. Shattered glass from the displays is on the floor. Some cases are tipped over. The courtyard is overgrown with weeds; creepers reach up the outside walls.

“It was very sad to watch over the years to see the place decline,” Pierite said. “We knew from Day One it was part of our ancestral homelands.”

The new attractions, Pierite hopes, will generate new interest in the site engage nontribal community members with the tribe and its history and educate all Louisianians about Native American and Tunica-Biloxi history in Louisiana.

“Everything we do from back into the present day is as inclusive of the nonnative community,” He said. “It’s our goal and spiritual obligation to teach our children to be great community partners.”