A local lawmaker called the disputed claims to the Shawnee Indian Mission property “messy.” Stock photo.
A bill that seeks to transfer ownership of the Shawnee Indian Mission in Fairway from the state to the Shawnee tribe has been introduced in the Kansas Legislature, according to lawmakers and tribal officials.
The legislation would allow the tribe to take control of the 12-acre historic landmark, but the city and the Shawnee Indian Mission Foundation, which helps maintain state ownership, have previously said on numerous occasions they want it to remain under state ownership. .
Both sides lobbied lawmakers this session in Topeka, and local lawmakers say they are still trying to figure out the issue before coming to firm positions on the issue.
The bill is still in its early stages
- Democratic state Senator Cindy Holscher of Overland Park, who sits on the Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee, told the Post on Friday that a bill to transfer mission land to the Shawnee tribe was introduced in that committee Thursday. .
- It’s unclear whether the bill still has a sponsor, and Holscher said he doesn’t believe it has been assigned an account number. (The bill has yet to be added to the Current Legislation list on the Kansas Legislature website.)
- Holscher said he thinks “we’ll have an idea if the bill will be subject to a hearing and if there is any potential movement for the bill” within two weeks.
- Maggie Boyett, the Shawnee Tribe’s communications manager, confirmed to the Post via text message on Friday that “a bill was introduced pro forma this week.”
Local lawmakers try to make sense of the matter
- The Post spoke to three local lawmakers — Holscher, Sen. Ethan Corson and Rep. Rui Xu — who all say they are still trying to figure out the issues surrounding the Mission’s control.
- Xu, a Democrat whose Fairway district covers the mission site, said he believes the conflicting interests of the Shawnee tribe, the city and other tribal nations make this potentially “chaotic” situation.
- “I think in the end there is no right and wrong decision. He’s just trying to get the best possible outcome for all parties involved,” Xu said.
- Holscher said she, too, is trying to think through what makes the most sense about the Mission, but acknowledges there may not be an easy answer.
- “I know the City of Fairway is concerned that if the Shawnee tribe takes over the land, they could potentially turn it into a casino,” Holscher said. “My understanding is – from the bill that I haven’t really read – but some excerpts from the bill say it’s not going to be used for any kind of game.”
Cities, tribes lobbying state legislators
- All three lawmakers the Post spoke to say they have been in contact with the Shawnee tribe and the city on the matter.
- Corson, a Prairie Village Democrat whose district also covers the mission grounds, and Xu say talks have been going on for more than a year about the mission’s fate.
- Holscher said she has spoken with Shawne boss Ben Barnes and Fairway Mayor Melanie Hepperly in recent weeks and received a letter from Kaw Nation about that tribe’s claim to the land.
- Holscher said that “most lawmakers outside of the Johnson County area are probably not familiar with the issue and what’s going on.”
Lawmakers have not yet taken sides
- Corson said he’s not looking to push either side into the Statehouse at this time.
- Xu and Holscher also said they are not yet trying to steer their colleagues in any direction on this issue.
- Corson said everyone he spoke to at the Shawnee Indian Mission Statehouse is still trying to gather intelligence.
- “I think most people still say, ‘I’m trying to understand the problem better, I’m trying to gather information, I’m just talking to people,’ but I don’t get the sense that, at least among the people I’ve talked to, that there is a sense that we need to steer this in a particular direction,” Corson said.
Read more: What could happen if the tribe takes control of the Shawnee Indian Mission?