A group of less than happy landowners in the former Picher mining district met Thursday night to petition the Bureau of Indian Affairs and Quapaw Tribe for answers about more than $11 million held in trust.
A settlement was granted to them in late 2007 in the ASARCO Federal Bankruptcy court case and paid to the Quapaw Tribe on their behalf, according to J.C. Killough, who organized Thursdayís meeting.
"The settlement was believed to be $11.5 million, less applicable attorney fees of 27 percent," said Killough.
The landowners - all of which are native decent -assert they have never been contacted by anyone in the Quapaw Tribe or on the Tribal Business Committee with respect to filing proof of their claims nor have they received any funds for their proportionate share of said settlement.
"We should have the right to know whatís going on," said Killough. "We have all asked individually where the money is, but we get no answers."
The meeting was organized after a release by area media detailing the sell of chat left from the Picher mining field to the state of Kansas.
The highway and road chat plan - described by U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe as a key element to the Tar Creek cleanup strategy - is expected to provide more than $35 million in stimulus money to the Tar Creek area.
According to the contract, the Quapaw Tribe is the beneficiary of chat sales.
"The Quapaw tribe owns very little chat," said Killough.
According to the landowners, the chat belongs to a large number of descendants of five Native American families who were allotted the land by the U.S. government.
"Itís hard to believe that in this day and age you can own land and not know whatís going on with it," said Killough. "These people are stealing our inheritance."
Those in attendance say the chat is another example of how they have been cheated of their inheritance.
"I have land that is being leased to farmers but Iím not seeing any rent money for it," said Killough. "When I inquired about it, I was told it was my responsibility to collect the rent. But, no one could tell me how much I was suppose to be collecting."
Others in attendance Thursday complained that they owned homes in Picher but were not part of the federal buyout because they were "Indian."
"When I spoke with Larry Roberts about why we were not part of the buyout he said the trust (Lead-Impacted Communities Relocation Assistance Trust) couldnít obtain information about the owners of the property through BIA," said Killough.
Killough said the only way to resolve the issue is to ban together and demand answers.
"We have the right to know whatís going on," said Killough. "What I find particularly sad is there are a lot of landowners over there who want answers too, but they are afraid to come forward for fear of losing their jobs because they work for the Quapaw Tribe."
An affidavit signed by those in attendance will be forwarded to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Quapaw Tribe and Washington D.C.