Quapaw, OK (April 28, 2021) – Secretary-Treasurer Guy Barker returned from Washington this week with a smile on his face. What he had set out to do, he had accomplished. “No one raised an issue with our authorization bill. That’s the big take away from all of this because it brings us that much closer to appropriation.” Guy Barker said.
The Quapaw Nation’s Business Committee has been working on finishing out Bear for months, but there seemed to be a new obstacle with every step. Past leadership of the Quapaw Nation didn’t exactly leave on the best of terms which had the new committee members picking up the pieces; they’ve been working tirelessly at doing just that for months.
The Quapaw Post got the opportunity to sit down with Secretary-Treasurer Barker after his trip. Check out that interview below.
When you first stepped into office, you believed Bear to be a settlement that would be paid out in early 2021; what changed that?
- Many things. First, we discovered that the request for appropriation had never gone through the House authorization committee. The United States Senate Parliamentarian took the position late last fall that even though the settlement has the blessing of the chief judge of the US Court of Claims, the settlement would still need to be authorized by the House. The previous administration had made promises for authorization language to be pushed on the house side. However, that legislative language was never delivered, leaving the new leadership to take up the mantle and provide that language. We are still in that authorization process because of this. The second, and probably the more profound reason, would be that Congress went through an election cycle just last November dovetailed with paying out trillions of dollars in COVID stimulus money. While $137.5 million may seem like a drop in the bucket compared to the stimulus package, it is still a sizable amount of money that Congress members may have been apprehensive about paying out at that time.
How do you feel about what was accomplished in Washington?
- I feel great. I received overwhelming support from our Federal delegates, and every member of Congress or staff that I had the pleasure of meeting with pledged their support to sponsor our bill and our efforts to fund Bear.
Were there other representatives involved in helping?
- Sen. Inhofe and the House reps of Oklahoma have pledged their support. Rep. Markwayne Mullin and Sen. James Lankford have offered to be the lead sponsor of our bill. We also continue to receive added support from the Federal delegates of Arkansas.
What other steps are left to get the Bear settlement in the hands of all tribal members?
- Now that we can see the light at the end of the COVID tunnel, in addition to having a Secretary of the Interior who is Native American herself in being Laguna Pueblo, and a friend to all of Indian Country, we have more funding options at our fingertips. Once authorized, we will urge the Department of Interior to make a formal request of the national settlement fund in order to fund Bear. If this option does not work, we can go through the rest of the appropriations process in Congress, but the United States settlement fund is our preferred method because it would be faster.
Are we looking at early 2022 now? How has the timeline changed?
- My goal is to get this settlement funded this year.