Cheyenne, Arapaho Tribes Fight Congress Over Land

Wednesday, January 8th 2014, 10:37 pm
By: News 9

A decades old fight to get back land originally taken from the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes is heating up.

The farm bill now in front of congress would again strip the tribes of their land taken by the U.S. military in 1869.

The farm bill had a provision in it for the last 10 years that prohibits the tribes from getting their land back. The reason why it has become a big deal all over again is because congress is trying to re-up the provision.

"I don't think there should be a fight at all," said tribal member Amber Bighorse.

For The Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes, it boils down to a property rights issue, a decades-old fight that is still a heated topic.

"It's the last piece of land that was taken from us," said Bighorse. "It was just never given back to us."

"We have some old wounds here in Oklahoma that haven't healed yet, and I think there's a history that we're a little bit scared of," said tribal attorney, Richard Grellner.

The tribes are fighting to have language in the farm bill that re-authorizes federal takeover of the historic Indian land eliminated. That way congress can make the decision to give the land back.

"At this moment, the property is under the control of the Agriculture Research Service, who has a facility there," said Grellner.

It's 10,000 acres, roughly 15 square miles of land, larger than the city of El Reno.

"The agreement was the land would be returned to us once the government no longer needed it for military purposes," said Bighorse.  

But, that never happened. The U.S. government kept control of the land and transferred ownership over to the USDA. Right now, it's Grazinglands Research laboratory.

"It belongs rightfully to the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes," said Bighorse. "This was part of the land that was given to the Cheyenne-Arapaho people."

Congress is expected to make a decision sometime next week on whether to pull that provision from the farm bill. The tribes are also asking for help from the White House to make that happen.