Turmoil brewing in tiny Oklahoma Indian tribe

An elected official serving the tiny Caddo Nation of Oklahoma said he chained the doors of the tribal complex shut to keep the former chairman out.
by Andrew Knittle Published: October 5, 2013
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— An elected official serving the Caddo Nation said he chained the doors of the tribal complex last month to keep the chairman out of the day-to-day operations of the federally recognized tribe.

Phillip Smith, vice chairman of the Caddo Nation, said the doors are locked to keep Brenda Shemayme Edwards, the tribe's chairman, out of the offices.

Smith, who also works as the administrator of the Caddo County jail, said Edwards has been recalled as chairman and is no longer supposed to be in the tribe's Binger offices.

“She will not leave,” Smith said when asked why the doors were locked.

Edwards is claiming she was never legally recalled and that Smith and his supporters broke into the tribe's offices and seized control of the building. She claims political rivals have wanted her out of office since 2011.

According to the tribe's website, the offices are closed due to a “hostile takeover” by Smith.

Edwards was re-elected in July to a second term as chairman. Smith was elected as vice chairman at the same time.

The political fight has spilled into the public domain. On the Caddo Nation's official website, Edwards has posted a lengthy explanation to tribal members.

The explanation, in the form of a letter, includes links to documents to support Edwards' case.

In the letter, she writes that Smith and other tribal members broke into the tribe's administrative offices Sept. 24 and took control of the complex. Since that time, Edwards writes, Smith and his group of supporters have changed the locks on “most of the doors,” obtained a new security force and blocked the entrance to the administration building.

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by Andrew Knittle
Investigative Reporter
Andrew Knittle has covered state water issues, tribal concerns and major criminal proceedings during his career as an Oklahoma journalist. He has won reporting awards from the state's Associated Press bureau and prides himself on finding a real...
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