The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

December 31, 2012

House resolution allows members of Quapaw Tribe to pursue claims

By Roger McKinney
news@joplinglobe.com

QUAPAW, Okla. — A U.S. House of Representatives resolution, sponsored by two Oklahoma members of Congress, may allow members of the Quapaw Tribe to resolve claims over funds held in trust with the federal government.

The measure, House Resolution 668, sponsored by Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., and co-sponsored by Rep. Dan Boren, D-Okla., was approved in the House by a vote of 398-5 on Dec. 19.

The resolution allows members of the tribe to pursue trust-related claims in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims.

“On behalf of the Quapaw Tribe, I want to express my sincere appreciation to Tom Cole and Dan Boren for their willingness to listen to us and review this situation and to give us our day in court,” tribal chairman John Berrey said in a news release.

He said the project began because the tribe wanted to have the opportunity to resolve trust claims using alternative dispute resolution rather than litigation.

It has been a long time coming. The tribe more than a decade ago began its pursuit of an accounting from the federal government of its management of funds and lands of the tribe and its members. The U.S. Department of the Interior in 2004 began the Quapaw Analysis Project, which was intended to lead to a mediated resolution of the tribe’s claims. The accounting project was completed in 2010, but the Justice Department declined to participate in a mediated settlement, advising the tribe to pursue litigation.

Cole issued a news release in which he applauded the passage of his resolution. He said he also appreciated Boren’s co-sponsorship of the resolution.

“The Quapaw Tribe cannot effectively manage its assets and pursue economic development without a full accounting of its funds held in trust by the federal government,” Cole said in the statement. “Despite a 10-year legal process during which the tribe fulfilled every step of its agreement with the government, the Justice Department failed to follow through, leaving this important issue unresolved. This resolution simply allows the tribe a new day in court to argue the merits of their case.”

Berrey in his statement said the measure was needed after the Justice Department rejected mediation.

“In order to close the books on this chapter in Quapaw history, our tribe and its members need to receive a full and complete accounting of federal mismanagement, and these claims need to be fairly and justly resolved,” Berrey said.