by Patrick B. McGuigan
Patrick Spottedwolf, a traditional Arapaho Chief and a member of the legislature for the Cheyenne & Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma, is calling for President Barack Obama to discuss return of long-promised tribal lands in western Oklahoma.
Focus of Spottedwolf’s concern is the 8,500 Fort Reno Military Reservation, an area held by the U.S. government for over 100 years, despite promises to return the area if ever the U.S. government ceased to use it as a military installation.
In a press release this week, Spottedwolf said:
“The Cheyenne-Arapaho people have waited more than a century for the return of the Fort Reno lands. “These lands have always been of tremendous cultural and religious significance to our tribes. After years of broken promises and legislative maneuvers the land has not been returned.
“For this reason, I asked President Barack Obama to take administrative action to honor the government’s promise to the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes. I hope the President will help end this injustice and I look forward to participating in development initiatives on the Fort Reno Reservation that respect the area’s environment and history.”
In the release, posted at The City Sentinel Facebook page on Monday, Spottedwolf asked for a meeting at the White House. But timing of the release came in conjunction with a lengthy letter to Obama detailing the land claim and summarizing events over decades of government maneuvering to avoid honoring a treaty promise to return the area.
This week’s press release also coincided with President Obama’s visit to Oklahoma on Wednesday and Thursday (July 15 and 16).
SpottedWolf said in his release he hopes the president will “meet with tribal leaders in traditional dress to consider the return of the Fort Reno Military Reservation. The land was carved out of western Oklahoma’s Cheyenne-Arapaho reservation in 1883 for ‘military purposes exclusively,’ with the understanding that the Tribes would regain the land when the military use expired.
“The Justice Department and the Department of Agriculture, however, took possession of the land without the consent of the Cheyenne and Arapaho people. Tribal leaders hope that President Obama will meet with them and restore tribal ownership over Fort Reno.”
A July 13 letter from SpottedWolf (who represents Arapaho District 3 in the Cheyenne & Arapaho Legislature) encouraged the president to visit with traditional leaders of the tribes. The tribal headquarters is near the federal prison (“reformatory”) close to the city of El Reno.
SpottedWolf’s letter is expected to appear as part of a paid advertisement in one or more Oklahoma daily newspaper on Thursday, during Obama’s visit to the state.