By Mary Leaver
Citizen Potawatomi Nation Chairman John “Rocky” Barrett recently received recognition from two Oklahoma organizations.
Barrett will share his leadership and expertise by serving as a director on the Oklahoma Hall of Fame and Gaylord-Pickens Museum board. His term began in January.
Barrett was inducted into the Shawnee Educational Foundation’s Hall of Fame on March 21. The SEF Hall of Fame honors former students of a Shawnee-area school who have made significant contributions to education.
Oklahoma Hall of Fame
Barrett will serve a three-year term. The Oklahoma Hall of Fame and Gaylord-Pickens Museum are governed by a board of directors representative of the state of Oklahoma.
The Oklahoma Hall of Fame was founded in 1927 to honor Oklahomans who gave outstanding service to the state during their lifetime and to provide educational programming for students of all ages through the museum and outreach programs, according to the Hall of Fame’s website.
“We are thrilled and proud to have him on the board and that he’s able to bring his expertise and leadership to our organization,” said Shannon L. Rich, president and CEO, Oklahoma Hall of Fame and Gaylord-Pickens Museum.
“I am honored to serve as a board member for the Oklahoma Hall of Fame,” Barrett said. “Potawatomi families were among the first people to establish homes in 1873 in then-Indian Territory. Indigenous history is Oklahoma history. I am pleased to support the Oklahoma Hall of Fame’s mission of telling Oklahoma’s story through its people.”
Through exhibits and experiences at the Gaylord-Pickens Museum, the Oklahoma Hall of Fame preserves Oklahoma’s unique history and promotes pride in the state.
“The key mission of our organization is to tell Oklahoma stories through its people, and we do that by recognizing our inductee class every year at the annual induction ceremony and recognize incredible Oklahomans that way,” said Michelle Sopp, director of marketing and communications for the Oklahoma Hall of Fame.
With Barrett’s executive experience and long-time support of educational endeavors, Sopp believes the board found a perfect fit.
“He is joining a board of directors of more than 60 people from across the state of Oklahoma. The people on our board represent a variety of backgrounds and industries working as business professionals, civic leaders and philanthropists,” Sopp said.
In addition to leadership, the board members are an important resource for the Oklahoma Hall of Fame and Gaylord-Pickens Museum through their program engagement and participation as well as their wide varieties of knowledge and expertise.
“We know Chairman Barrett strongly supports education,” Sopp said. “He’s been instrumental in the growth of Citizen Potawatomi Nation over the past many decades. His leadership and expertise in governance is probably something we’ll tap into a bit with him. (Board members are) a sounding board for everything we do here at the organization.”
Barrett started his three-year term in January. If he chooses, he can opt for a second term. The organization hopes Barrett opts for the additional time, allowing their board and organization to fully benefit from his leadership.
Board members are selected and personally asked to serve, Sopp said.
“It is a personal ask that we make to different people from across the state. We look for diversity in all aspects of race, creed, backgrounds, professions, because we really want to make sure that when we make decisions as an organization, we are taking into account so many different considerations from all different viewpoints,” she said.
Barrett’s long tenure with CPN, and his vast experience in key tribal leadership positions was what the Oklahoma Hall of Fame was looking for.
“With Chairman Barrett, he is the longest serving (CPN) leader. He has such a diverse history of experience with the Nation. I know that that was a key factor with asking him to come onto the board this year,” Sopp said.
CPN and Barrett are long-time supporters of the Oklahoma Hall of Fame, and he joins other Oklahoma tribal leaders on the board of directors, including Chief Gary Batton of the Choctaw Nation and Gov. Bill Anoatubby of the Chickasaw Nation.
“I think adding Chairman Barrett rounds out a very diverse group that is so connected. The tribes are such an integral part of Oklahoma and so connected across the state. I know Chief Batton has helped make so many connections with key people for us. I really look forward to working with Chairman Barrett in that aspect,” Sopp said.
Chairman Barrett recently made an appearance on the This is Oklahoma podcast, sponsored by the Oklahoma Hall of Fame. Host Mike Hearne interviews Oklahomans who have had an impact on the state through history, culture, education, government and business.
The This is Oklahoma podcast episode featuring Chairman Barrett can be found through the Oklahoma Hall of Fame’s website or podcast providers such as Apple or Google.
To learn more about the Oklahoma Hall of Fame and Gaylord-Pickens Museum, visit oklahomahof.com.
SEF Hall of Fame
Chairman Barrett was also honored by a Shawnee group that provides crucial financial support to area teachers and students. The Shawnee Educational Foundation inducted Barrett into its Hall of Fame.
Barrett is a graduate of Shawnee High School. Under his tenure, CPN created its Department of Education in 2016, which provides college and career support to Tribal members across the country.
He was also instrumental in developing the Potawatomi Leadership Program. Held annually, the PLP educates, informs and encourages qualified Potawatomi students to develop a greater understanding of Tribal operations, history and culture.
The SEF noted Barrett’s support of local education as part of his philosophy that “a rising tide lifts all boats,” including both the Nation and Pottawatomie County.
The Shawnee Educational Foundation is a volunteer board formed in 1989. The group raises money through an annual banquet to fund teacher and site grants in the Shawnee area. The grants support innovative classroom activities that benefit students in Shawnee Public Schools, Grove School, Pleasant Grove School and South Rock Creek School. SEF also awards scholarships to graduating seniors. To learn more, visit shawneeeducationalfoundation.org.