Lawrence's mayor isn't convinced a recent high profile land purchase by the Delaware Tribe of Indians is a sign the tribe wants a casino here.
Mayor Mike Dever said that he spoke with the chief of the tribe before its purchase earlier this month of about 90 acres of highly-visible property near the Kansas Turnpike interchange at North Lawrence.
"Gaming or a casino was never discussed," Dever said.
Instead, Dever said tribal leaders indicated they were looking for property for their tribal headquarters, which currently are in Bartlesville, Okla.
"It was more about establishing a sovereign location for their tribe in an area that was originally their home," Dever said.
The Delaware tribe had a reservation between Lawrence and Leavenworth between 1830 and 1866. Following the Civil War, the federal government forced the tribe to move to an Oklahoma reservation.
In March, the Leavenworth Times reported that the Delaware were considering moving their headquarters to Wyandotte or Leavenworth counties in Kansas because of restrictions they faced in Oklahoma.
A spokesman for the tribe on Tuesday declined to comment on whether the tribe was considering Lawrence for a new headquarters.
The spokesman also declined to comment on whether the tribe had any interest in using the recently purchased property for a casino. In a written statement the tribe said that plans are likely to include housing, child care and a medical clinic to serve the state's American Indian population.
"The Lawrence property is seen as an investment in the future as the tribe promotes its theme of 'Return to Kansas,'" the tribe said in its statement.
But a Lawrence area casino was on the mind of previous tribal leaders. In 2000 the Delaware tribe expressed strong interest in building a casino complex on 80 acres near the turnpike in North Lawrence.
The Leavenworth Times article in March also quoted a tribal consultant as saying that a gaming operation could be part of an economic development effort for the tribe in Kansas. But the consultant — Dee Ketchum, a former Delaware chief — also told the newspaper that's "not the whole reason for relocating."
Dever said he would be excited to see plans for a tribal headquarters complex.
"With the presence of one of the only Indian nation universities in the United States, having a Native American tribal tribal headquarters in the community would further embrace the Native American population that is already here," Dever said. "We should be pleased that there are people considering Lawrence as a unique place for their tribe to grow."
The Delaware tribe has about 10,000 members, but it is unclear how many employees a tribal headquarters might include. The tribe's Web site listed about two dozen different staff members at its headquarters location.
The 87-acres of Lawrence property was part of the Pine Family Farm operations and had been used as a sod farm for many years.
Tribal officials on Tuesday offered no timeline for when they may announce plans for the property.