Summer is coming to a close and it was a headline making summer for Oklahoma’s natives and tribes. We revisit one of those stories, the fate of Longhorn Mountain.
Last June, it was learned that half of Longhorn Mountain near Lawton had been leased to a rock crushing company that would soon start mining gravel. Longhorn Mountain is a sacred site to the Kiowa Tribe that had passed out of tribal ownership, and though the tribe had been notified by the Oklahoma Department of Transportation about the construction of a road, they didn’t understand what exactly was going to happen.
Tribal Historian Phil Joe Fish Dupoint remains concerned but, also, a little relieved.
“With Longhorn Mountain there is not too much really going on right now other than us getting our things together, putting everything in place with the family, the landowners there around Longhorn Mountain,” Dupoint said.
“There's no equipment being moved there. Actually nothing has really started yet as far as bringing in equipment to start making roads to start the mining.”
“They said would want to start in mid-August and we was kind of shook up about it, had to start moving the ball fast and everything, but we've been going out there, oh I'm going to say at least every two weeks to see if there's any kind of movement going on out there,” Dupoint said.
“So I don't know how much longer it will be, whatever but we're still in the process of...we're ready I guess.”
Ready to protest or take legal action?
“Well, we as a tribe, we’re not going to be able to do that but what we're doing is that we're working with the landowners there in the area, around the mountain and the sides of the mountain. And what we want to do is get with those people and invite them over and say okay what do you all have, what things in place because they the ones that are going to have to bust a move. “
“And once they do that, we're right behind them. We're still looking for that loophole, there's a loophole somewhere,” Dupoint said. “We've got to find it, once we find it, they we're ready to, as Kiowas, as an Indian tribe, then we're ready to bust a move.”
In the 1970’s, officials from Washington, D.C. had approached the tribe about their sacred sites.
“They were getting the Indian Freedom of Religion Act together. There were representatives that came from D.C. down to this area, among the Kiowas. The leaders at that time called in different traditional people from the tribe to come in and speak to those people and kind of more or less asked, ‘What do we need to do?’ They said, ‘Could you all take us around to your sacred sites, what you would consider sacred sites? Show us the plants and whatever things that you use.’ “
Dupoint said that leaders from their traditional societies “showed them Longhorn Mountain, Saddle Mountain, Rainy Mountain, down in the Wichita Mountain area, just different sites, the Cutthroat Massacre site, just different sites like that, took us a couple of days to cover everything, like this is where we had our last Ghost Dance, this is where we had our last Sun Dance, just different sites like that okay, what we consider sacred.”
Unfortunately, all paperwork from that time was lost.
“Our sites now, they need to be taken care of, they should've been taken care of back then but they weren't for whatever reason so now we need to look out for those things and get them registered. Not only nationally, but even with the state, the state of Oklahoma,” Dupoint said.
“So those are some of things we are confronted with, just another obstacle we got to jump and kind of, more or less, kind of get straightened out before we go any further and anything like this happens to anything else, you know.
Dupoint credits the media, social media and public interest with the delay of any work on Longhorn Mountain, that it might have made the gravel company stop and think.
“I think so, and, uh, like, uh, well like this past year ever since this has been going on, different people have been coming over and they've been, you know, going up there and offering they're prayers, leaving their prayers there for whatever situation they are in, that it will all work out. And of course they've been gathering whatever they've needed, you know,” Dupoint said.
“And it’s just kind of seems like everything just kind of more or less fallen into place. I mean, you know, they were supposed to start in the middle of July, then they were supposed to start in the middle of August and then, like now, we're saying there's no kind of equipment being moved around there, everything just seems to be the way that it always has been, you know. For however, how long, you know, maybe we...now I sure hate to say maybe cause I don't like the word...but until we get things going, then we'll be alright.”
One can only hope they will be alright, that they aren’t being lulled into a false sense of security for their mountain.
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