The graves have been established as Quapaw for many years by historians and scientists — authorities who specialize in such things — and the federal government agreed and returned the artifacts to the Tribe under the guidelines of Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA). Generations of Quapaws have grown up knowing those are Quapaw graves. We really don't understand the point of anyone even bringing this up. What is the point? It just piles insult onto the negativity.
The Tribe's application asserts the burial remains are that of the Quapaw. However, the report provided by the Tribe does not offer definitive proof identifying the remains as that of the Quapaw people. Further, the Tribe asserts that there are also burial remains of African American slaves on the land in question. I am assured that the Tribe is interested in protecting the burial remains and that the Tribe has conferred with the Preservation of African American Cemeteries Inc. regarding protection of the African American slave remains. I have no doubt Chairman Berrey has a genuine desire to protect Quapaw remains. However, this desire alone is not sufficient to allay my concerns.
The non-Quapaw burial remains and historical presence which deserve state protection on the land at issue, coupled with the question of whether the earlier remains discovered on the land are Quapaw or that of an earlier people, gives me great pause. If the land were placed into trust, the state would lose the ability to protect the interests of the decedents of the original inhabitants and any other historical presence or artifacts discovered on the land. I am concerned about whether there is a rational basis to place the land into trust given these unrequited issues.
The beauty of this process is the comment period that allows all pertinent governments to be heard. The Governor's response was very well written in the expression of some concerns, and we see that as an opportunity to further educate the state which we enjoy. The fundamental legal analysis is one concern we have, and the State's perspective is from a misunderstanding of definitions in this federal code. We see this as a concern by the State about something we aren't doing.