Archive for Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Local leaders, Indian tribe to begin new talks about future of North Lawrence property

August 19, 2014


Discussions are ready to begin again on how an Oklahoma-based Indian tribe will develop more than 90 acres of property it has purchased in North Lawrence.

Leaders of the Delaware Tribe of Indians are scheduled to be in Lawrence on Wednesday and Thursday to meet with officials from the city, the county, the chamber of commerce and other groups. The meeting also will involve the use of a paid facilitator meant to help the various parties better communicate.

“We want to really just get the best lines of communications possible between different folks in our community and the tribe,” said Douglas County Commissioner Nancy Thellman, who will participate in the meetings. “We want to talk about what potential projects there may be for their parcel of land.”

In July 2013, a subsidiary of the Delaware Tribe purchased about 90 acres of property located along the Kansas Turnpike, just northeast of the turnpike’s interchange in North Lawrence. For years, the property has served as a sod farm operated by the Pine family. Since its purchase, the property has continued to be leased to a sod farm operator.

But discussions this week will focus on what long-term plans the tribe has for the property. Shortly after the tribe purchased the property, several residents expressed concern that the tribe may try to build a casino on the site. The tribe has never said it intends to build a casino, and it originally said it wanted to explore development of the property in ways that would include housing, child care and a medical clinic to serve the state’s American Indian population.

In November, however, tribal officials did confirm that they had signed an agreement with a private development company that would search for possible casino sites in northeastern Kansas. But city and county commissioners at the time said their discussions with Delaware leaders left them confident the tribe did not have an interest in building a casino in Douglas County.

Thellman said she still believes that is the case. Thellman and others have had several ideas about how the tribe’s North Lawrence property could serve as a unique agricultural attraction or resource. But whether that means a teaching farm, a farm that focuses on providing local food production, a conservation demonstration project or something else is unknown, Thellman said.

“The hope is that when we are done, we’ll have some consensus on what a potential project is and who may be interested in joining forces on taking the next step,” Thellman said.

Hearing more about what the Delaware Tribe envisions for the property will be key, she said. Thellman and others have cautioned any type of significant construction on the low-lying property could create flooding problems in the adjacent North Lawrence neighborhood.

“The fact is always going to remain that it is river-bottom land, and it has some of the best agricultural soils in the area,” Thellman said. “It is going to be difficult to develop for lots of reasons, period.”

Tribal leaders have not commented recently on whether they still intend to use a portion of the property for housing, educational and medical facilities. Tribal leaders, however, have stressed that they want to greatly expand the tribe’s presence in northeast Kansas. The North Lawrence property was part of the tribe’s reservation prior to a forced relocation that took place in the late 1860s. Tribal leaders have said they are hopeful that re-establishing operations on their former reservation property will lead to greater opportunities for grants and other recognition from the federal government.

Chief Paula Pechonick was not available to answer questions on Tuesday, but issued a statement about the upcoming meetings: “We are looking forward to being able to explore the opportunities of the use of our newly reclaimed land of the Delaware Tribe’s former reservation from which our ancestors had to move in 1867.”

The meetings on Wednesday and Thursday will be closed to the public, Thellman said. She said various staff members from the city and the county have been asked to attend, as well as representative from the Lawrence chamber of commerce, the Douglas County Extension Service, the local conservation district, the school district, Kansas University and Haskell Indian Nations University. Gary Flory of Great Plains Consensus has been hired to serve as facilitator for the meetings. Thellman said two other meetings also have been preliminarily scheduled for next week.


Clark Coan 3 years, 8 months ago

There's a Delaware cemetery up there. The Delaware were anti-slavery and let runaway slaves from Missouri live on their land in North Lawrence. Certain Lawrence economic interests got them removed to Indian Territory because they wanted the land--some of the best in the world. That's why it shouldn't be paved over.

Brian Hall 3 years, 8 months ago

The (known) Delaware Cemetery is located north of Eudora, not Lawrence. If there are bodies of Delaware Indians located in North Lawrence don't you think the Delaware Indians would know? That they want to build on that land says to me there is nothing buried up there.

Mike Ford 3 years, 8 months ago

This cemetery interred Delaware people who chose US Citizenship over going to Indian Territory in 1867. There are still Lenape descendants in this area of those people who stayed in Kansas. I once met one of these descendants at the Bonner Springs Thriftway back in 2004. C.A. Weslager's book on the Delaware People has a census list of the Delaware Soldiers who followed Captain Falleaf in The US Civil War and those Delaware or Lenape peoples who chose US Citizenship in the 1860's. It's an informative primer on Lenape people.

Robert Fort 3 years, 8 months ago

How about housing, child care and a medical clinic to serve the state’s American Indian population funded by a casino?

Mike Ford 3 years, 8 months ago

Again non Indian people don't realize that individual gaming tribes already build wellness centers and senior housing for their people to begin with. The PBPN at Mayetta has elder housing and even though the Citizen Band Potawatomi Nation hasn't had trust land in Kansas since the late 19th century they have close to 4500 tribal members in Kansas and many of them live in or near their former reservation lands in Rossville, Silver Lake, and St. Mary's. They have a tribal resource elder housing complex on the east side of Rossville, Kansas, which I've visited in the past. The whole casino thing is an uphill battle for tribes coming back to the former area. There is a law USC 2719 B (1) b part II that allows landless tribes in Oklahoma to establish trust lands in the location of their last known reservation which North Lawrence was until the 1860's for the Eastern Delaware Tribe of Oklahoma. However in the last 15 years tribes here in Kansas have been resistant to the idea of tribes coming back here for economic reasons. The state ran casinos also cause some problems for tribal casinos even though the Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma is currently entertaining the idea of partnering with the State of Kansas for a casino at the old Dog track near Frontenac and Pittsburg, Kansas, since this state has lowered the amount for a gaming partner to have come up with to operate a casino with the State of Kansas. There would have to be a major shift in federal and state policy for a tribal casino to happen in North Lawrence. I was at a meeting in Tonganoxie a decade or so ago when the Delaware Tribe was looking for a place in Leavenworth County for a casino in the Tonganoxie City Hall. That was a hostile meeting to say the least. The law for the Delaware Tribe to establish trust lands elsewhere is there but there is way too much visible opposition outside of Lawrence to this. This is what I observe. Some time ago the Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma whose lands Lawrence proper sits on pre 1854 tried as a landless Oklahoma tribe to get a casino in the Bricktown District in OKC before the Thunder arrived. US Senator James Inhofe from Oklahoma wrote an add on to a larger bill preventing them from doing so. State officials thwarted attempts to get part of the Sunflower Ammo Depot lands by this Shawnee Tribe to get part of their historical lands back near De Soto for tribal/gaming possibilities a decade ago. Both the Shawnee and Delaware Tribes who inhabited this area pre 1867 have a Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma jurisdictional issue to deal with that prevents them from exercising their sovereignty in northeast Oklahoma. That's why they're back here to try and gain elbow room so to speak. More power to them. This is simply an uphill battle as many issues are in Indian country.

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