Ben Barnes

Ben Barnes


Shawnee Tribe

Shawnee, OK USA

This soil that we walk upon, this history we all share, this is ours. Our ancestors built this place for us—for us, about us, to us.


By Roadtrip Nation

Ben Barnes


My road in life has taken me all over.
My father was a member of our traditional religious community, so I was brought into that at a very young age.
After high school, I immediately went to work in Indian gaming, which was a brand new industry at the time.
I spent over two and a half decades in the Indian gaming industry, starting as a bingo worker and ultimately working my way up to Director of Tribal Gaming.
No matter what hardships I went through, our traditional religious community was always there—that support and community inspired me to start thinking about joining our tribal government.
In 2012 I became second chief of the Shawnee Tribe and served over seven years in that role before becoming chief.
Now I currently serve the Shawnee Tribe as the elected chief of the Tribal Council.
Keep following my journey


High School



I am an elected leader for the Shawnee Tribe, a federally recognized tribe of American Indians.

Career Roadmap

My work combines:
My work combines:
Helping People

Day to Day

Tribal citizens call and tell me about issues they have—some our government can assist with or I can direct them to appropriate resources elsewhere. Sometimes they need someone to talk a problem through with. Other times they'll describe a situation where a governmental program should be in place to fill an unmet need within our communities. The role that I fill that can't be filled by others within the Tribal Nation organization is the establishment of goals and priorities for our people.

Advice for Getting Started

Here's the first step for everyone

If I could recommend anything, it would be to encourage young people to get involved with their Tribe's government as soon as they are able. Volunteer and be useful to your people. The projects that I have worked on for the Shawnee Tribe never feel like labor. While it is certainly true that there are days that are struggles, each day really is its own reward.