BINGER — 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.
Edwards claims a recall meeting held Sept. 7 was a sham and that there weren't enough signatures to make the action legitimate. A group of Caddo voters had tried to have Edwards recalled in August, but the petition was deemed invalid by the tribe's election board.
Documents available on the Caddo Nation's website seem to support Edwards' claims, although Indian tribes do not have to comply with open records requests.
“Philip Smith and his supporters do not have control over the Caddo Nation,” Edwards wrote. “They do not have control over personnel, they do not have control over the administration of grants, and they do not have control of the finances.
“They assumed that they could bully the Caddo Nation and we would just allow them to take control. They assumed wrong.”
The Caddo Nation is based in Binger, about 60 miles west of Oklahoma City. The tribe has roughly 6,000 members, with a little more than half living in Oklahoma.