In the month of November, leaders of the Cheyenne & Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma were present in the U.S. Capital for meetings and discussions, including a national gathering that unfolded yesterday and featured a keynote address from President Joe Biden.
In early November, the Two Tribes were among those present at the White House Ellipse.
With U.S. Department of the Interior authorization, several Tribal Nations were visible, in the words of an ally, "As a reminder to the American people and government of their promises to the legitimate indigenous peoples of America."
At the end of the month, C&A leaders and members gathered at the Interior agency for the 2022 White House Tribal Nations Summit.
According to an Interior Department posting, that gathering provided an opportunity "for Administration and Tribal leaders to discuss ways the federal government can invest in and strengthen nation-to-nation relationships as well as ensure that progress in Indian Country endures for years to come."
The early November encampment near the White House was at a place sacred to the Monacan Nation in ancient times, but the C&As are certainly not strangers at that location in modern times.
Chester Whiteman and others were there in early November 2010, as a part of their call for the U.S. government to fulfill long-standing pledges to the C&As.
History is Not Bunk. It’s History
The best-known of those explicit promises were made in executive orders (never rescinded) during the presidencies of two Republican presidents.
Boundaries of a joint reservation were fashioned in an executive order during the administration of President Ulysses S. Grant in 1869.
A subsequent executive order during the administration of President Chester A. Arthur. In 1883, he reserved 9,500 acres of that reservation for “military purposes exclusively” – with an explicit proviso that if and when the U.S. military no longer needed the land, it would return to the tribes.
Fort Reno was intended to protect both settlers and tribes, and in some ways it functioned as such from its location within C&A lands.
At the time of individual allotments of Native land, in 1890, the reservation per se around Fort Reno began to fade away. However, the historic Fort was not included in that cession. That last sentence is not a matter of historical interpretation, but of historical fact.
(In fact, the land claim was explicitly recognized as recently as 1999, when John Leshy, a Department of Interior [DOI] officer, analyzed the course of events and accumulation of precedents touching the area at and around the fort.)
This is Now (as in, the last 160 years)
Yesterday (November 30) the C&As were among those whose leaders participated in the national summit. Gov. Reggie Wassana had some time with U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland.
Wassana, Whiteman, C&A legislator Patrick Spottedwolf and others have labored over recent decades to bring past promises to fulfillment.
For a time during the Clinton Administration, it seemed the land around the fort might finally return to the C&A people – Vice President Al Gore, in fact, supported the return according to multiple sources – but time passed and the hope did not come to fruition.
Efforts continued in the Obama and Trump years.
In both eras, fact-based aspirations were seemingly on the verge of becoming reality.
But time passed and the land at Fort Reno remained in the hands of the federal government (in most of the modern era, the U.S. Department of Agriculture). To learn more, visit their facebook page, or c-a-tribes.org .
Secretary Haaland is no stranger to Oklahoma, having made important visits to the state, including one featured in a July 2022 analysis for The Oklahoma City Sentinel.
With every new administration in Washington, D.C., it seems the season of hope is renewed.
Hope moves, like the western Oklahoma wind, in warm times and cold times, in contentious times and quiet times. And now.
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