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Kiowa fear settlement of ages-old Texas vs. Oklahoma feud

ANADARKO, Okla. - Kiowa tribal members are working in a grass-roots movement to reverse a law they believe is the first step in the abrogation of their treaty rights and will result in the loss of more land and gas and oil rights along the Red River between Oklahoma and Texas.

The Red River Boundary Compact was created to settle a 200-year-old dispute between Oklahoma and Texas over the boundary lines along the Red River, but the implications may prove lethal to the Kiowa, Comanche and Apache land holdings in the area.

The 106th Congress approved H.J Res. 72 and President William Jefferson Clinton signed it into law in October 2000 (P.L. 106-288), but tribal members are continuing their fight to stop what they call the first step in state's rights over tribal rights.

Kiowa Mike Turner said he believes the innocent looking legislation may be a front for what is actually planned for the land in question. Turner sees the land being sold out from underneath the tribes and said he fears the present administration will back Texas if push comes to shove.

"It's been passed by Congress and it is law now," Turner said. "We are still working against it. There is fraud in it and we can prove it. It is a violation. Texas is claiming those lands as public lands and they're not. Everything inside a reservation boundary is tribal land."

The boundaries in question are aboriginal boundaries and tribal titles to the land, Turner said. "The problem with Oklahoma is they aren't adhering to the Enabling Act of 1906. It specifically says that the state cannot extend its jurisdiction over tribal lands or treaties. The problem is that the state of Oklahoma and the state of Texas do not recognize treaties ... our reservation boundaries go past the Red River into Texas, all the way from the 98th meridian east to the 100th meridian west. The Kiowa, Comanche and Apache have jurisdiction over those lands."

Turner said he fears that because the state of Texas is calling the lands public lands and not respecting the boundaries of tribal lands that the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Oklahoma vs. Texas (269 U.S. 341 1926).

Both Gov. Frank Keating of Oklahoma and George W. Bush, then-governor of Texas, signed the original compact.

"We've got to get this information out," Turner said, adding that the Bureau of Land Management is not giving the tribes the survey data for the reservation land and he fears the next step the Bush administration will take is to declare eminent domain on the "public lands."

"Then they will take them forever. They're going to declare eminent domain and we are going to lose everything."

Turner said some landowners haven't gotten leases from the government in years and now, without the surveys, proving who owns the land is next to impossible.

He said the tribes have long supported the federal government. "During the (World War II) effort, we turned those lands over to the government ... After the war those lands were supposed to come back to the tribe. Something happened back then. It is difficult for me to get those documents. They are blocking me every step they can, but those lands never came back to us.

"If we don't get this turned around, we are going to see treaty abrogation," Turner continued. "If we see treaty abrogation, we're gonna see our KCA (Kiowa, Comanche and Apache) lands, which are former reservations lands, broken up and sold and this is what is going to happen. Our water rights are going to go ... right now Texas is claiming 60 percent of those water rights. Those are tribal water rights ... they've never gotten any compensation for it."

Turner said the tribe has not received any compensation since World War II on gas and oil wells on the land they once donated to help with the war effort. "We don't know where that money is at.

"We're going through hard times right now," Turner said. "We've lost millions of dollars. We're in one hell of a predicament right now ... I've got a recall against the chairman right now, but everyone knows that won't go through. We passed a resolution to stop the original compact, and asked him to go up and get this stopped and vetoed by the president, but nothing ever happened."

Turner said the only solution he sees now to get the law reversed and protect the KCA land is to call for a congressional investigation and a separate investigation into the BIA's Anadarko Area Office.

"I could get a list of the complaints against the area office from all three tribes here," Turner said. "There is a list that you wouldn't believe ... ."

Turner continues to work as a watchdog for the members of the three tribes. He said his hope is that as word spreads across Indian country other tribes will see the danger in the precedent being set by the present administration in Oklahoma/Texas to gain tribal land for gas and oil drilling. He said he doesn't have the money for a large legal team, adding there are few that can be trusted in his area, so he continues his research and his mailings to the media from his home.

"This is gonna make the people in the Indian Affairs and the committee look at this again," Turner said. "You're talking about probably prosecution because you can't violate a treaty. There are federal statues that govern that as far as going after officials who violate their trust responsibilities.

"We still have land out there that we have to protect. We have to stop it, they are attacking us, the KCA's right now ... ."