Interview with Tribal Elder Don Patterson

Tribal Profile

Total Area: 1,505.57 acres
Federal Trust: 994.33 acres
Tribally Owned: 273.00 acres
Allotted: 238.24 acres
Total Reservation Population: 826
Tribal Enrollment: 718

Location and Land Status

The Tonkawa Tribal Reserve is located in Kay County, in Northern Oklahoma. Tribal headquarters are situated on the west bank of the Chikaskia River, about 2.5 miles southeast of the town of Tonkawa. Ponca City lies just 12 miles east via U.S. 60. Oklahoma City is approximately 100 miles due south. The tribal reserve consists of 994.33 acres of federal trust land. These trust lands are supplemented by 238.24 acres in individual allotments.

Ft. Oakland, on the original Tonkawa Reserve, was occupied by Chief Joseph’s Nez Perce from 1878 to 1885. In 1885 the Tonkawa were assigned 91,000 acres of land within this reservation. These lands were eventually allotted, and the remainder opened for white settlement.


The Tribal Committee is composed of a president, vice president and secretary/treasurer which serve as the elected governing body for enrolled tribal members. Committee members serve two-year terms, with elections occurring every other year.

The Tonkawa Tribe is organized under the Oklahoma Indian Welfare Act, having adopting a constitution and bylaws on April 21, 1938. This constitution was amended on April 2, 1977 and on August 12, 1994, September 10, 2009, March 9, 2013, and December 6, 2014.


The tribe operates 3 Class II/III gaming facilities managed by an independent entities. The Tonkawa Indian Casino West is located at the intersection of Highway 60 and Interstate 35 Tonkawa Indian Casino East is located on the Tonkawa Tribal Reserve and the Native Lights Casino is located at Chilocco on north Highway 77. The Tribe also operates under Red Pipe LLC, two smoke shops one on the Tonkawa Tribal Reserve and one at Native Lights a Travel Plaza and Hotel on Highway 60 and Interstate 35.


In addition to tribally owned businesses, the tribe administers federally funded programs and services in education, job training, health and diabetes care, transportation, child care and others.


Tonkawa Tribal headquarters are accessible from Ponca City, via U.S. 60. U.S. 177 connects Tonkawa with Blackwell, 12 miles north. Interstate 35 passes just three miles west of Tonkawa, connecting with Oklahoma City and beyond. Commercial and private air service is available in Ponca City, 12 miles east. Bus lines, truck lines and express package carriers also serve Ponca City.

Community Facilities

A community center is located at Fort Oakland on the tribal reserve near Tonkawa. Tribal members receive electricity, water and gas service from regional providers.

Tribal members receive health care through the White Eagle, Kanza, and Pawnee Indian Clinics, approximately 20 miles southeast of the tribal reserve. Hospitals are also located in Ponca City. Children attend Kay County Public Schools.