Shawnee claim to former Army ammunition plant

Mary Pierpoint
9/28/01

MIAMI, Okla. - The Shawnee Tribe has filed notice with the Department of the Interior to claim rights to the Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant, a 9,065-acre area in dispute since the plant closed nearly a decade ago.

The Oz Entertainment Co. has been trying for years to get the Johnson County Commission to approve an agreement that would turn the site into an $861 million theme park and resort project.

An earlier attempt by the United Shawnee Tribe, not state or federally recognized, to obtain the land, failed following lawsuits.

The new claim for the area, from the Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma, says the tribe lived on the land before its relocation in the 1800s.

Shawnee Chairman Ron Sparkman cautioned that the land claim is in the infant stage as far as what else may be done by the tribe as it attempts to regain the land.

'Well, I don't know that anything is going on,' Sparkman said. 'The government, the General Services Administration, has declared the land surplus government property. In our own treaties and agreements that refers to those lands, that once they are no longer used by the government can be reverted to the Indian tribe that once occupied those properties.'

Sparkman said the tribe asked its attorney Ross Swimmer, former head of the BIA, to look into the matter.

'We've asked Mr. Ross Swimmer to look into this for us to see if this is in fact a valid claim,' Sparkman continued. 'We feel it is. It is in the very infant stages right now. All we are saying that is if we have a legitimate claim, we want to exercise that option. Someone in Washington, I am assuming will tell us what our rights and privileges are.'

What the Shawnee will do with the land, if they get it is still up in the air Sparkman said. 'We possibly would work with Oz or anyone else who would work to develop a legitimate enterprise on the property.'

There had been no communication Sparkman said between the Oz Entertainment Company and the tribe as of yet.

'It is still in the preliminary states. It was our homeland and we still have tribal members on restricted land in that area. We are just waiting now to see what the outcome will be.'

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