By Wally Kennedy
MIAMI, Okla. —
The Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma filed a lawsuit Monday seeking approximately $175 million in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims for past breaches of obligations owed to the tribe by the federal government.
In a statement released today, the tribe said it has a history concerning federal management of its lands that is unique among Indian tribes. The Quapaw Reservation, created in 1895 in the far northeastern corner of the state of Oklahoma, was later the site one of the richest discoveries of lead and zinc ever made in the United States.
The tribe said that within a few years, lead and zinc mining destroyed much of the tribe’s land. The tribe alleges that when the mining began to decline in the 1950s, the U.S. Secretary of the Interior failed to ensure that the companies operating on the land conducted appropriate clean-up and restoration. As a result, much of the tribe’s land is polluted and within the Tar Creek Superfund Site.
The tribe said that in its investigation that it found a close relationship between the federal government, U.S. Department of Interior, and the mining companies that contributed to the lack of meaningful clean-up of the land.
The tribe also alleges that due to the federal government’s mistreatment of the Quapaw, few members of the tribe ever benefited from the tribe’s mineral wealth.
The tribe said the investigation that led to the lawsuit started more than a decade ago.
John Berrey, head of the tribe, in the statement, said today: “There is a legacy in our tribe concerning the lands and assets that were stolen from our people that were mismanaged. In order for our people to have closure on this history, these claims need to be heard in court.’’