Comanche Nation battling Fort Sill over rights to Medicine Bluff

Lawton_The Comanche Nation and Fort Sill are in a bit of a battle over Medicine Bluff - one of the post's most famous landmarks.  But, Medicine Bluff is far more than a landmark to the Comanches - it's sacred.  The tribe believes it is one of its last sites of true medicine.  Now, Fort Sill plans to build a training service center at the bottom of the bluff, but tribal members believe that they have had an understanding with Fort Sill that the post would never build on the sacred land.  Fort Sill officials say the post has done its part to consult with the tribe - but the Comanche Nation disagrees.

Perhaps the best way to describe what the site means to the Comanche people is to compare it to places that others call sacred - churches, cathedrals, synagogues.  The primary difference is that this place of worship was created by nature, and to the Comanches, it's just as important and essential as any man-made structure where others pray.

For William Voelker and the rest of the Comanche tribe, Medicine Bluff is a place of healing power.  "There are many sites on Fort Sill that have historic ties, but Medicine Bluff is the most sacred of the sites," he said.  He explained that the land in question is an important part of the tribe members' healing process.  "[It's] an area that would have been integral to how we approached - how we prepared - to go to this important Tubitsi Puha site, or special medicine site."  Voelker says he can't understand why Fort Sill chose this particular site.  "In all of these years since Fort Sill was established north of Randolph Road and West of Currie Road, this area has been left open and unencumbered," he said.

A statement from Fort Sill reads:

"The construction will have no adverse effect on Native American traditional, cultural, or religious sites...the Army has fulfilled its responsibility to make a reasonable and good faith effort to consult with the Comanche Nation."

Of this statement from Fort Sill, Voelker says, "This is not true," he said.  "They have notified the tribe, there has been no consultation, until last Friday, on the actual site."  He says that the tribe was not satisfied with the consultation.  "Unfortunately it's gotten to the point our tribal lawyers are involved," he said.

Voelker says he can't understand why - with all the land Fort Sill owns - they have chosen the tribe's sacred ground.  He says he hopes they will reconsider and choose another site.  The statement from Fort Sill also states that the Comanche Nation did not respond to Fort Sill's letter within the allotted 30-days which is why they say they continued with their planning.  The Comanche Nation says that notification is not consultation, and currently Fort Sill has not provided any evidence of any consultation they say they engaged in.

The statement also reads construction has been put on hold "as a result of concern expressed by some members of the Comanche tribe, the project is now being reviewed by the Secretary of the Army."

Count on 7News to keep you updated on any decisions made with regard to Medicine Bluff.