Quapaw excluded from Tar Creek Superfund decisions

Mary Pierpoint
9/28/01

QUAPAW, Okla. -Officials from the Quapaw Tribe are speaking out at being excluded from recent meetings and decisions regarding the Tar Creek Superfund Site - 70 percent of which is on tribal land.

Chairwoman Tamara Summerfield claims the state is trying to advance the position that a world-class wetland would be the perfect final solution to the Tar Creek Site, leaving the tribe out of the decision making process.

'I would like to convey my great disappointment with the manner in which recent meetings have taken place and decisions have been made regarding the Tar Creek site,' Summerfield said. 'Approximately 70 percent of the site is on lands owned by the Quapaw Tribe and its members. How can anything happen here without our involvement?'

Summerfield said she is dismayed that the tribe only recently learned about President Bush's decision to appoint senior level representatives from federal agencies to assist with cleanup efforts at the site. She said she is also upset that she had to find out about an Oct. 2 meeting between the agencies by reading about it in the local newspapers.

The Tar Creek Superfund Site is a former lead and zinc mining area in northeastern Oklahoma that encompasses a 40-square-mile area in Ottawa County most of which is owned by the Quapaw tribe and its members.

'The Quapaw Tribe is sovereign nation, a government made up of the majority of the stakeholders at the site, yet we are frequently excluded from many activities and meetings involving senior level state and federal officials,' Summerfield said. 'The tribe will not just stand by silently and watch as meetings take place and decisions are made by other government agencies for our people and their lands.'

Quapaw Environmental Director Tabitha Worley said she can't understand the exclusion of the tribe either. 'We continually attempt to ensure the tribe is included in activities regarding the site,' Worley said recently. 'But despite our best efforts, certain state and federal agencies and officials continue to try to ignore us. The tribe and its members, together, are the key to 70 percent of the area. When will they get (it) that without us, nothing, wetlands or otherwise can happen?'

Although both Summerfield and Worley say they are disappointed with recent events in the decision making process, they plan to continue to fight to ensure that issues important to the tribe are heard.

'The state can say or do whatever they choose to in regards to the small portion of the site that is non-Indian, but when it comes to Indian lands, they have no say,' Summerfield said.

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