Canku Ota Logo

Canku Ota

Canku Ota Logo

(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


February 21, 2004 - Issue 107


pictograph divider


Tribe lays claim to Sunflower site
19th-century treaty may figure largely in future of De Soto land


Kansas City, Kan. — A judge's interpretation of a 150-year-old treaty may determine the future of the former Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant near De Soto.

The Shawnee tribe says it is entitled to the 9,065-acre site now that the government wants to dispose of the land. But the federal government says the tribe forfeited rights to the land under a treaty ratified in 1854.

U.S. District Judge G. Thomas Van Bebber heard arguments in the tribe's lawsuit on Friday.

The tribe's claim to the land "has never been terminated, it has never been extinguished and it has never been abrogated," tribe attorney Scott Beeler said in court. "That's been true for 180 years."

Assistant U.S. Atty. David Zimmerman disagreed.

"We believe there is no continuing Shawnee tribe reservation" that includes the Sunflower site, Zimmerman told Van Bebber.

The federal government in 1998 announced its intention to dispose of the property because the plant had closed.

History lesson
The tribe filed the suit in 2002, claiming it is entitled to the site near De Soto. The tribe argues that treaties signed in 1825, 1831 and 1854 said that if the federal government chose to dispose of the Sunflower site, the tribe had the authority to take it back.

Both sides agree on this much: Under the 1825 treaty, the Shawnee tribe gave up land in Missouri in exchange for 1.6 million acres of land that included all of what now are Johnson and Douglas counties in Kansas. Members of the Shawnee tribe in Ohio gave up their land in 1831 in exchange for 100,000 acres in the new Kansas reservation.

But the sides disagree on how much land the Shawnee gave to the U.S. government under the 1854 treaty.

Zimmerman said the government purchased all 1.6 million acres from the Shawnee but gave tribal members a "right of first refusal" on land within 200,000 acres that included part of the Sunflower site. Beeler said the 200,000 acres was intended as a reservation for the tribe.

Beeler said that if Congress never terminated the "reservation" designation, then federal law gives the Shawnee rights to the Sunflower site now that it is being sold.

Also under dispute: Whether the tribe ceased to exist and thus lost its rights to the land when it merged with the Cherokee tribe in Oklahoma between 1869 and 2000.

"That's a red herring," Beeler said. "They (Shawnee) have always maintained their separate heritage, their separate lineage, the separate religion and their separate government."

Latest battle
The tribe's lawsuit is the latest in a series of battles over the site.

Backers of a "Wizard of Oz" theme park tried for several years to get permission to develop the site, but that effort fizzled in 2001.

Last month, the Johnson County Commission designated Kessinger/Hunter, a Kansas City firm, as its preferred developer of the site. The company has proposed a mix of commercial, residential and park uses for the site where bomb propellants were manufactured from 1942 to 1989.

Officials say that once the county and company work out the details, Johnson County will negotiate on behalf of the firm to buy the site from the federal government. Gov. Kathleen Sebelius has said she wouldn't approve the transfer, however, unless developers included a life sciences research park.

Those developments did not go unnoticed in the courtroom on Friday.

Beeler asked Van Bebber to "ignore the politics of whether the state of Kansas wants this ground, whether Johnson County wants this ground, or whether a private developer wants this ground." Zimmerman, meanwhile, asked Van Bebber to dismiss the suit.

Under an agreement between attorneys, the government will give 30 days' notice to the Shawnee if it transfers the land before the case is resolved.

"We don't anticipate any action on that front for six months," Zimmerman said in court.

"We'll have this case decided before then," Van Bebber said.

He did not give a timeline for his ruling in the case.

Kansas City, KS Map

Maps by Travel

pictograph divider

Home PageFront PageArchivesOur AwardsAbout Us

Kid's PageColoring BookCool LinksGuest BookEmail Us


pictograph divider

  Canku Ota is a free Newsletter celebrating Native America, its traditions and accomplishments . We do not provide subscriber or visitor names to anyone. Some articles presented in Canku Ota may contain copyright material. We have received appropriate permissions for republishing any articles. Material appearing here is distributed without profit or monetary gain to those who have expressed an interest. This is in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.  

Canku Ota is a copyright © 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 of Vicki Lockard and Paul Barry.

Canku Ota Logo   Canku Ota Logo

The "Canku Ota - A Newsletter Celebrating Native America" web site and its design is the

Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 of Paul C. Barry.

All Rights Reserved.

Site Meter
Thank You

Valid HTML 4.01!