OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A Native American tribe in Oklahoma is pushing back against a rock-crushing company that the tribe says will soon start mining gravel out of a mountain long considered sacred by tribal members.
The Kiowa Tribe has gathered cedar and performed ceremonies on the Longhorn Mountain since the tribe was relocated from the northern Plains to a reservation in southwestern Oklahoma in 1867. But the Kiowas’ long-standing tradition could be in jeopardy after the tribe says some of the mountain’s land owners leased water and land rights to Material Service Corp., a Cushing mining company.
Kiowa historian Phil Dupoint says the tribe has had a “gentlemen’s agreement” with the landowners over the years, but fears that won’t be possible once the company starts mining for gravel, which the tribe believes could start by the end of the summer based on a newspaper ad seeking workers for a rock crushing plant at Longhorn Mountain.
“We’ve got so many people who are concerned. It’s not federal land. It’s not trust land. We can only go so far,” said Dupoint, who has been researching the issue with Amie Tah-Bone, the director of the Kiowa Tribal Museum.
The mountain, about 20 miles southwest of Carnegie, and surrounding land was originally assigned to the Kiowas as part of the 1867 Medicine Lodge Treaty, Dupoint said. Later, the Dawes Act divided the mountain and other land into 160-acre settlements to each tribal member.
“As time came along, there were different tribal members who owned different parts of the mountain,” Dupoint said. At some point — probably around the Depression-era — the tribal members sold the land to non-tribal members but were still allowed access to the land to continue the customs and traditions.
Today, five private owners hold the property rights to the land. Two leased water and land rights to the mining company, Tah-Bone said.