To the editor:
George Lauppe, Haskell's former registrar, claims the wetlands is a "manmade lake." He was around when over two-thirds of their campus was "disposed" of by paternalistic BIA bureaucrats who showed no respect for the wishes or opinions of Indians.
Even the Federal Highway Administration acknowledges that "In the 1880s and 1890s, the Haskell farm was focused on the upland areas, generally north of where 31st Street is today, because of the wetland nature of the bottom lands. The area today is returning to a wetland probably similar to the era prior to pioneer settlement" (FHwA 4(f) report p.14).
Lauppe and other advocates for paving the wetlands claim they are "uncertain of the environmental significance" of the wetlands because they were once farmed. Cheyenne Bottoms, one of the most internationally significant wetlands in North America, was not only drained for farming, it served as a practice bombing range throughout World War II. Some may recall Saddam drained the marshlands of southern Iraq, another "swamp" that sheltered resisters from tyranny.
Kansans, like most Euro-Americans, believed until recently that wetlands were "wastelands" of no value unless drained. The Cheyenne, like virtually all other indigenous peoples on this continent, shared a fundamentally different attitude toward wetlands. They were primary sources for game and gathering places for medicines, ceremonial items, important food plants, fibers, dyes and many other essential items. For Haskellites these wetlands hold an even deeper historical and spiritual significance that the Lauppes of this community could never appreciate.