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Tribes spar over construction site, possibility it has ancestral remains

Photographs filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma by the Wichita and Affiliated Tribes allegedly show protesters trying to halt construction on the Wichita’s new history center near Anadarko. The Caddo Nation claims the site holds ancestral remains. [Photo provided]

Photographs filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma by the Wichita and Affiliated Tribes allegedly show protesters trying to halt construction on the Wichita’s new history center near Anadarko. The Caddo Nation claims the site holds ancestral remains. [Photo provided]

ANADARKO — The Caddo Nation believes a site where the Wichita and Affiliated Tribes are building a history center holds sacred Caddo burial sites, but the Wichita say testing has not uncovered evidence of remains. 

"Just to be clear, there are no remains on those particular sites and there never have been," said Michael McMahan, an attorney for the Wichita and Affiliated Tribes.

In a statement, Terri Parton, president of the Wichita and Affiliated Tribes, said the Wichita have the right to the land where the tribe is building its new history center off U.S. 281. 

"Despite being wrongfully accused of 'digging up the graves of children,' among other things, the Wichita Tribe remained open to reviewing any and all evidence the Caddos might have to support their claims," Parton said. "Despite numerous requests from the Wichita Tribe, the Caddo chairman has refused or is unable to provide any evidence to support the Caddo claims." 

Caddo hold protest

A small group of protesters tried to halt construction on the site by standing in front of trucks in May, and the Caddo Nation also has sued to stop work on the history center. 

The Caddo Nation claims the Wichita would not consider building the history center on a less culturally sensitive site and the Wichita Tribe said it would move ahead with pouring the concrete foundation before testing for remains could be done.

In a statement issued through the tribe's attorney, Caddo Nation Chairman Tamara Francis-
Fourkiller said the tribe would continue its fight to stop construction. 

"We are disappointed that the court lifted the stay on construction but the Caddo Nation will continue to fight to protect Caddo and other Indian ancestors and sacred places at this important site," Francis-
Fourkiller said. 

Case is appealed

The Caddo Nation appealed its case to the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals this week after a U.S. District Court judge rejected its arguments against stopping construction.   

In a 19-page order issued May 31, U.S. District Court Judge Joe Heaton ruled that the Wichita had fulfilled all of its obligations to test for cultural artifacts before building on the site. 

In court documents, Francis-
Fourkiller said the site where the Wichita are building a new 4,000-square-foot history center is the original site of Riverside Indian Boarding School, a school that was originally established for Wichita and Caddo children.

"Bodies may have been moved that were located at a cemetery in that same area to make way for a highway that was built, but not all of the bodies were moved," Francis-
Fourkiller said in court documents.

Brianna Bailey

Brianna Bailey joined The Oklahoman in January 2013 as a business writer. During her time at The Oklahoman, she has walked across Oklahoma City twice, once north-to-south down Western Avenue, and once east-to-west, tracing the old U.S. Route 66.... Read more ›

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