LITTLE ROCK — The chairman of the Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma says the tribe is willing to sign an agreement prohibiting it from seeking to open a casino in Arkansas.

LITTLE ROCK — The chairman of the Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma says the tribe is willing to sign an agreement prohibiting it from seeking to open a casino in Arkansas.


The tribe also announced Friday it has approved a resolution declaring its 160 acres of land in Central Arkansas a sacred site.


In a letter to the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs dated Wednesday, Chairman John Berrey reiterated his previous statements that the tribe — which operates casinos in Oklahoma — does not plan to conduct gaming on the land, which it is seeking to place into federal trust.


"Although I do not believe it is necessary, the Quapaw tribe will provide further assurances that it will not seek to conduct gaming on the Thibault Road tracts, including entering into an appropriate intergovernmental agreement with the state," Berrey wrote. "Such agreements have been deemed to be enforceable in other instances, and to prevent the issuance of licenses for tribal casinos."


The tribe also is willing to consider "any other appropriate means" of satisfying Arkansas authorities that the tribe will not seek to operate a casino on the land, he said in the letter.


Placing the land into federal trust would give the tribe jurisdiction over it. Several elected officials have written letters opposing the tribe’s request, including Gov. Asa Hutchinson; Pulaski County Judge Barry Hyde; U.S. Sens. John Boozman and Tom Cotton, both R-Ark.; and U.S. Reps. Bruce Westerman, R-Hot Springs, and French Hill, R-Little Rock.


The state attorney general’s office and the Arkansas Racing Commission have warned that the tribe could seek to use the land for gaming in the future.


Berrey also wrote in his letter that there is "substantial evidence" connecting burial sites on the land to the tribe. Hutchinson has questioned whether proof of such a connection exists.


The Quapaw’s homeland is in Arkansas, and Central Arkansas is the last area of the state in which it was allowed to live before being removed to Louisiana and what is now Oklahoma, Berrey said in his letter. The tribe was originally known as the Arkansa and did not become known as the Quapaw until after the U.S. took control of the Louisiana Territory, he said.


Berrey also disagreed with Hutchinson’s comments that placing the land into trust is not necessary because the state is already protecting the burial sites and that granting the tribe’s request might make it difficult for the state to protect burial sites of black slaves.


"I am advised that there have been longtime efforts on the part of African-Americans in Arkansas to get the state to recognize and invest in the protection of such burial sites, without much result," Berrey wrote. "The tribe, as both landowner and as a tribal government, is in a unique position to protect the heritage of all of these sites, when the state appears to have neither the desire nor the resources to do so."


The tribe also announced in a news release Friday that it has approved a resolution designating the land as a sacred site and declaring that the tribe "asserts tribal governmental jurisdiction to the fullest extent recognized by law over the lands within the original Quapaw Reservation."