The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO


December 30, 2013

Our View: Vested in land cleanup

— The Quapaw Tribe has convinced the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that it should play a more active part in the cleanup of the Tar Creek Superfund Site in Ottawa County, Okla.

This is the first cooperative agreement in the nation where a tribe will perform a remedial action for the federal government on property that it owns.

We feel confident that the tribe will get the job done and that its work at the Catholic 40 mining site, southeast of Quapaw, will be exemplary.

Historical records show that the Catholic 40 site is where the Catholic Church constructed a church and boarding school in 1892 on land that was part of the Quapaw Reservation. The church and school started soon after lead and zinc mining spread from Southwest Missouri and Southeast Kansas into Northeast Oklahoma. The church and school closed in the 1920s when the tribe decided to no longer help fund their operation.

Members of the Quapaw Tribe attended the church and school. A cemetery exists at the Catholic 40 site in which tribal members have been buried. The Quapaw Tribe intends to clean up the land with EPA funding and preserve the historic features that remain. The EPA will provide oversight.

In a statement released by the tribe, Chairman John Berrey said: “The Quapaw Tribe will be here forever, and we have a vested interest in the land and in the interests of our neighbors.

“Therefore, we are anxious to demonstrate that the Quapaw Tribe is the appropriate stakeholder to perform remediation activities on tribal properties and, thereby, help restore the land to uses that will benefit the future of the tribe and the local community.”

Letting the Quapaw Tribe participate in the cleanup of their own land seems more than appropriate. It seems like the right thing to do.

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