The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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January 19, 2014

Tribes strive to preserve, protect history, culture; increased revenues, federal sources help

QUAPAW, Okla. — Developers made a discovery last summer as they were in the planning stages for a steel mill near Osceola, in northeastern Arkansas.

“The property that the local developers own includes a number of archaeological sites, mostly prehistoric Native American settlements,” said Ann Early, state archaeologist of Arkansas. “A few of those properties appear to have historic integrity. That means they’re not disturbed, and they may contain the remains of houses and human remains. They are culturally and potentially historically and scientifically important.”

She said there had been minimal excavation so far, just enough to identify two late prehistoric settlements.

John Berrey, chairman of the Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma, on Wednesday said it is a Quapaw settlement. It is in an area where Quapaws made contact with Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto in 1541, their first contact with Europeans.

“They’re correct and appropriate to consider them their ancestors,” Early said about the connection between the Quapaw Tribe and the inhabitants of the prehistoric settlement.

Early said that right now, the sites are being preserved in place. As work on the planned steel mill progresses, more decisions will be made. She said all of the parties involved at this point are committed to preserving the sites.

“There’s something new found nearly every day,” Berrey said about Quapaw grave sites and artifacts in the eastern two-thirds of Arkansas.

‘WHO WE ARE’

Berrey said he thinks the increased revenue that tribes have now from casinos and other businesses aids them in protecting tribal artifacts and culture.

“It gives us a great opportunity,” he said. “These are the things that make us who we are. It reminds us and everyone else about who we are and where we came from. It’s part of our responsibility to protect it.”

In addition to tribal revenues, federal agencies and funding sources aid tribes in preserving their history and culture.

Berrey on Wednesday signed an agreement with Maj. Gen. William Wofford, adjutant general of the Arkansas National Guard, in which the National Guard promised to assist the tribe in protecting its cultural resources in Arkansas. The ceremony took place at Downstream Casino Resort.

Wofford said the National Guard had entered into other similar agreements.

“The fact that the Quapaw Tribe has its roots in Arkansas is probably more significant than others we have done,” Wofford said. “Part of what it symbolizes is that we are allies. We fully recognize your sovereign nation.”

Carrie Wilson, a member of the Quapaw Tribe who was instrumental in putting the agreement together over a period of five years, said the agreement is important.

“It represents two nations coming together to protect tribal culture,” she said. She said consultation meetings will follow the signing.

“It’s a trust-building exercise,” Wilson said. “We don’t live in Arkansas anymore, and we don’t know where our cultural sites are.”

After the signing ceremony, Berrey and Wilson showed Wofford some of the dozens of samples of Quapaw pottery displayed in cases at the casino.

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