Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker offered the following condolences on Tuesday, March 4 on the passing of Cherokee citizen Betty Starr-Barker.
Barker, of Stilwell, Oklahoma served on the Cherokee Nation Registration Committee since April 2013.
“Tonight, we grieve the passing of a beloved Cherokee woman: author, historian, educator and distinguished elder Betty Starr-Barker,” Chief Baker said. “Betty, or ‘Ma Barker,’ as many of us knew her, was a strong and influential force in the Cherokee Nation. Born on her father’s allotment in Adair County, she dedicated her life to serving others and, fortunately for us, the Cherokee Nation. She retired from being an educator after four decades, but her legacy doesn’t end there. She was instrumental in the restoration of the Kansas City Southern Railroad Depot in Stilwell, active in the planning of the Stilwell Strawberry Festival, and was a fixture at countless community and special events in Adair County. Anytime there was something important taking place in Stilwell, I could always count on Ma Barker being there with a big smile and a welcoming hug. The Strawberry Festival will never be the same without her."
“But Ma Barker’s legacy will live on not only in her deeds, but also in the strong Cherokee women she raised. She is the mother of Dianne Barker-Harrold, general counsel for the Cherokee Nation Tribal Council, the grandmother of Angela Jones, Cherokee Nation Supreme Court Justice, and the grandmother of Melinda Cookson, who serves in the Cherokee Nation Department of Commerce. Our sincerest condolences to her entire family and the host of friends she leaves behind, for we grieve along with them.”
Last year Barker was among 50 Native Americans statewide recognized at the AARP Oklahoma Indian Elder Honors banquet in Oklahoma City for serving the tribe and community in multiple ways.