Property discussion

The United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians in Oklahoma again has been in talks with members of Enid City Commission about the possibility of opening a casino in Enid. The tribe lost its Tahlequah casino in 2013. 

ENID, Okla. — The lone casino owned by the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians tribe has been closed, amid litigation, for about five years.

Headquartered in Tahlequah, the tribe operated the casino there for 28 years, Assistant Chief Jamie Thompson said.

The UKB are descendants of "old settlers" or "western Cherokee" and migrated to Arkansas and Oklahoma around 1817, Randall Hendrix, executive director for the UKB Corporate Board, told the Enid City Commission during a study session Tuesday. The tribe was removed to Indian Territory in the Treaty of 1828, which granted 7 million acres of land — including the Cherokee Strip that starts in Enid — to become part of its reservation. 

It was federally recognized in 1946, he said.

At currently 14,000 members, the UKB is a blood quantum tribe, with each member having a blood count of at least a quarter, Hendrix said.

The Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma operates in Tahlequah as well, Thompson said.

"They're just a tribe that has been approved by administration. That's it. They hatched out like a chicken hatching out of an egg in about 1977. Now, I grew up there, born and raised there. Been a born Keetoowah, so I know the history, and I'll be glad to debate that with any of those members from that so-called tribe anytime anybody wants to sit down and do it. Unfortunately, they avoid me like I got leprosy," he said.

The UKB is the only recognized Cherokee tribe in Oklahoma to organize under the Oklahoma Indian Welfare Act, Thompson said.

A few years ago, the UKB were told its casino in Tahlequah was not on trust land and the tribe could not game there, he said.

Fourteen days prior to the land being finalized into trust, the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma filed an injunction against the U.S. claiming the Secretary of Interior does not have the power to take the land into trust, Thompson said.

"We had to close our doors waiting on this litigation, and it's still tied up in litigation. It's been five years now," he said. "We're a small tribe of 14,000 people because we're real Indians. We're not what I call Windians. That's a bunch of white people that want to be Indians. The joke in Tahlequah is, 'What do you have when you have 2,200 CNO registered citizens in one room?' Anyone want to care to answer that? It's called a full blood. One is 2,200th degree. So, therefore, we're the real tribe. That's why we have low numbers, we have blood quantum. You can't be less than a quarter to be a member of the Keetoowahs."

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Involved in news reporting for about 15 years, I've been with the Enid News & Eagle since 2014, when my family moved to Enid to be on the family farm.

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