Kevin Washburn

Washburn Approves Kaw Nation Land for Gaming

Brian Daffron

Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Kevin Washburn has approved 21 acres in Kay County, Oklahoma near I-35 for gaming use by the Kaw Nation. According to a BIA press release dated March 10 2014, the site will be used for a small casino in conjunction with a Kaw Nation-owned travel plaza already in use.

“The Kaw Project will provide significant opportunities for economic development for the Kaw Nation, and will provide a means for the Tribe to improve the governmental services it provides to its members,” Washburn stated in the release.  “The acquisition of the site in trust is necessary to support these efforts.”

The steps to approve the land for gaming began on May 17, 2013 with Washburn issuing a positive Secretarial Determination in compliance with the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. This determination showed that a gaming facility on site would be in the best interests of both tribal members and the surrounding community. Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin then concurred approval on May 23, 2013, with officials from the Town of Braman and Kay County, Okla. supporting Kaw Nation efforts.

Approval of the land by Washburn helps add much-needed land base to the Kaw Nation. Starting in 1825, the Kaw Nation—also known historically as the Kansa—saw at least 20 million acres become reduced to 2 million acres of land in present-day western Kansas. By 1872, their reservation was reduced to 80,000 acres in Kansas, with the end result being forced removal to 100,137 acres in northern Oklahoma.

The tribe’s land base eroded even more in the 20th century, with the Kaw Allotment Act of 1902 ending its legal status. Although the Kaw Nation was federally reorganized in 1959, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers flooded their tribal jurisdiction in the 1970’s to create the Kaw Dam and Reservoir on the Arkansas River, making the Kaw Nation landless. The approved site is approximately 21 miles from its former jurisdiction.

“The Kaw Nation has strong ties to the region,” Washburn said. “The Nation seeks to restore a tribal land base in a region it has historically inhabited.”

Guy Monroe, the chair of the Kaw Nation, said in a press release dated March 11 that Washburn’s decision “has been the result of a long and arduous collaborative process between the citizens of Braman and Kay County, the State of Oklahoma and Kaw Nation. We anticipate that the Kaw Nation’s Braman Casino project will provide a solid economic boost to Kay County and the Kaw Nation which will result in long term economic expansion in northern Kay County.”
The 3,000 member nation makes its home in Kaw City, Okla., with additional tribal enterprises that include the Kaw Nation SouthWind Casino near Newkirk, Okla., an experimental pecan tree farm and tobacco stores in both Newkirk and Ponca City.  The Kaw Nation release said the process of getting the Braman land into trust status had been a twenty-five year effort.

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