QUAPAW — The Court of Federal Claims in Washington, D.C settled litigation involving the Quapaw Nation Friday, Oct. 4 after a ruling.
“This has been a goal of mine-and of our entire leadership team-for more than 17 years. I am very pleased to be able to tell you we finally achieved this result,” Chairman John L. Berrey said in a letter to members of the Quapaw Nation.
“Ever since we became a nation within the United States, our people have often had extremely hard times and have been horribly mistreated,” Berrey said. “You know our history. When we were forcibly moved to our present reservation, there were only a few hundred Quapaw left. We started this litigation process knowing that no amount of money could make up for the injustices done to our people. But this settlement does represent meaningful restitution.”
At a meeting of the Department of the Interior in 2003, Berrey told the group what the tribe wanted was acknowledgment of how it had been mistreated and sought some compensation.
“I said we want to look forward — not backward,” Berrey said. “As I also told that group, Indian people want to stop burning the house down and instead rebuild.”
In 2013, the tribe filed a congressional reference lawsuit in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, seeking approximately $175 million in damages for past breaches of legal and equitable trust obligations owed to the tribe and its members by the federal government. The case has been brought as a class action on behalf of all similarly situated Quapaw tribal members.
The breach-of-trust claims arise from the federal government’s failure to fulfill legal and trust obligations owing to the Quapaw.
He said in the letter he hoped that the settlement in some ways would help settle accounts on the Quapaw Nation’s part in the past.
“Our Nation is looking forward,” Berrey said. “Our stability and continued growth is an example in Indian country. Our governmental services are recognized for their quality-in realty, environmental regulation, public safety, agriculture, and others.
“Our enterprises — including our newest development, the Saracen Casino Resort (in Pine Bluff, Arkansas)— are providing more and more quality jobs for our people and our communities. Our Nation today is setting the standard. I am confident the best is yet to come for our people.”
The Pine Bluff region was once home of the Quapaw Nation of which Saracen was chief.
Berrey expressed thanks to all those who worked in seeking a resolution.
“But what is also on my mind are all the people we have lost who had a part in it, and who were supportive, and who wanted to see this result,” Berrey said. “This settlement honors them, and all of our ancestors who somehow kept this Nation alive in extremely hard times. We also honor them as we continue building the Quapaw Nation.”