John Barbry, Director of Development and Programming for the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe of Louisiana, honored for contributions to cultural preservation of Tunica-Biloxi legacy
Marksville, LA. – (Mar. 15, 2022) –John Barbry, the Director of Development and Programming for the Tunica-Biloxi Language & Culture Revitalization Program (LCRP) and Education Department for the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe of Louisiana, was recently honored by the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities as their 2022 Champion of Culture as part of the organization’s 37th Humanities Awards. The Champion of Culture award is bestowed to individuals or organizations that have made a lasting mark through their support and promotion of Louisiana’s cultural resources.
“The Tunica-Biloxi Tribe is honored to have such an incredible culture bearer among us,” said Marshall Pierite, Chairman of the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe. “In his many years of service to our people and our heritage, Mr. Barbry has been pivotal in fostering the preservation of the Tunica language and culture of our ancestors and allowing tribal citizens to learn from for generations to come.”
One highlight of Barbry’s storied career is assisting in the cataloging of the “Tunica Treasure,” a then-lost trove of tribal artifacts dating back to the early 18th century, prior to its transfer from storage from the Louisiana State Museum in New Orleans. In 1993, he was the first Native American archivist appointed at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian.
“This was a chance to preserve who we were for future generations,” said Barbry, “I am grateful that I was able to take part in such an important endeavor that will have a lasting impact on Tribal citizens.”
As director of the LCRP, Barbry oversaw the language apprenticeship program, which allows tribal members to become fluent speakers and instructors of the Tunica language. This program was funded by a $748,200 grant from the Administration for Native Americans, which was procured thanks to the efforts of Barbry and the leadership of the Tunica-Biloxi tribe.
In pursuit of cultural preservation, Barbry led the LCRP in forming a partnership with the American Philosophical Society to work on the Indigenous Language Manuscript Interface project. This project created an archives-based, open-source platform to allow researchers to navigate and view digitized original pages of manuscripts written in endangered languages, focusing on Tunica language notebooks from the 1930s.
As an advocate for presenting the history of his tribe to others, Barbry is responsible for the creation of the Tunica-Biloxi Pow Wow, an annual cultural gathering that brings together Native American tribes from across the United States to share in tribal comradery and celebrate their tribes’ customs and practices.
Programs under his purview include the Tunica-Biloxi Language and Culture Summer Camp, an immersive program that teaches tribal youth the Tunica language using traditional songs, stories and activities that reinforce the usage of Tunica words. The LCRP also hosts cultural workshops on the traditions and crafts of the Tunica-Biloxi tribe.
Barbry has worked diligently to ensure that the education of the Tribes’ youth is supported in all facets. He has secured multiple education grants to continue and expand services, such as in-person and online tutoring, education counseling and other services to support tribal youths. He also worked to ensure that students had the necessary resources to learn from home through the COVID-19 pandemic.
“John’s achievement is a reflection of his passion and love of our tribal heritage,” said Tribal Council Member Bobby Pierite. “It is a great honor that we have John to rely on to preserve the legacy of the Tunica-Biloxi tribe for the next generation of tribal citizens.”
About the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe of Louisiana:
The Tunica-Biloxi people first appeared in the Mississippi Valley. In the late 1700s, they settled near Marksville, where they were skilled traders and entrepreneurs. Today, the Tribe has more than 1,500 members throughout the United States, primarily in Louisiana, Texas and Illinois.
The Tunica-Biloxi Tribe received federal recognition in 1981 for its reservation within the boundaries of Louisiana. The tribe owns and operates the Paragon Casino Resort, the largest employer in Central Louisiana. Through its compact, negotiated by the late Tribal Chairman Earl J. Barbry Sr. and the State of Louisiana, the Tribe has assisted local governments in the area with its quarterly distribution of funds, totaling more than $40 million over two decades. For more information about the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe of Louisiana, visit www.tunica.org and “like” us on Facebook.