Topeka The chief of the Delaware Tribe on Saturday indicated that pursuing a casino in Kansas is a possibility, but also said the tribe has a broader vision of increasing its presence in the state to provide services to Native Americans.
In an "open letter to the people of Kansas," Chief Paula Pechonick said she wanted to address speculation that has arisen since the federally recognized tribe based in Oklahoma purchased a 90-acre tract of prime property earlier this year in North Lawrence along the Kansas Turnpike.
Pechonick said that some have alleged the only reason the Delaware Tribe wants to move to Kansas is to build a casino.
She praised the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, which allows Indian gaming, saying no other law passed by Congress has done more to help tribes save their communities.
"No tribe would ever take gaming off the table as a viable option as long as it is legally available," Pechonick said. "This isn't new or unique to Kansas: actually the Kansas Tribes have done so, as well as the state of Kansas when they licensed their own private casinos and lotteries. However, the legal process is lengthy and complicated."
The tribe has signed a development agreement with a company that specializes in building casinos.
In her letter, Pechonick said, "Gaming is nothing more than a means to an end, which provides our Tribe the resources to strengthen our community and bring up the lives of our people."
Lands north of the Kansas River were the Delaware Tribe's last home before being forced to move into Oklahoma shortly after the Civil War and live within the boundaries of the Cherokee Nation.
Pechonick said the Delaware seeks a future in its treaty-promised "forever home" of Kansas and designation of a service area where it could deliver federal services to Native Americans.
"Aside from social and infrastructure services, the Tribe is focused on the economic impact to communities through job creation, support of small businesses and investment in community projects," she said.
The efforts of the Delaware Tribe have drawn opposition from the federally recognized tribes of Kansas, which all have casinos.
Leaders of the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation, the Kickapoo Tribe in Kansas, the Sac and Fox Nation of Missouri in Kansas and Nebraska, and Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska said if the Delaware Tribe was successful in starting a casino in northeast Kansas it would cause "significant economic hardship" to the Kansas tribes.
In her statement, Pechonick said the Delaware Tribe is seeking to exercise the same benefits of tribal sovereignty that other tribes enjoy and has no intention of harming any tribe or local government.
Pechonick said the goals of the Delaware Tribe will take time. "But to the Delaware Tribe, because we never, never, never give up, time is on our side," she said.