Monday, December 7, 2009

*Land into Trust

Land into trust is still a confusing and government run issue that has sparked the biggest class action lawsuit in the history of the United States. In the case of Cobell v Norton seeking damages of $136 Billion dollars, now on it's way to possibly The United States Supreme Court after refusing to accept the $435 million dollars awarded by the court. If the $435 million dollar settlement was accepted it would work out to a pennies on the dollar settlement.

Mrs. Cobell proved that land was not properly distributed by The Bureau of Indian Affairs and was given away and sold, land that allocated to Native Americans. The Bureau of Indian Affairs mis-managed the land that Native Americans were suppose to get and they were suppose to put the land into trust, but instead used huge amounts of allocated land for government surplus and sold it for profit.

Today there is still 55,700,000 acres of land held in trust by the United States government. One of the confusing cases is when in 1991 the Narragansettes purchased land for economic development because they wanted to build a elderly housing complex. State officials feared that the Narragansettes would build a casino using the Indian Reorganization Act and that the tribe was not recognized by the U.S. government until after the 1934 act.

After a long court battle the United States Supreme Court came with a verdict on the states side, This ruling limits the federal governments authority and give the states powers that were not part of powers of the Indian Reorganization Act.

True sovereignty is when a nation can truly make its own decisions free from the federal governments rules, so when you hear that Native Americans are sovereign, you will know that is only half true. When it comes to tribes kicking out members for what ever reason then the government says, "we can't intervene because of sovereignty" but let a Tribe try to buy land and it is a long legal proceeding.

Right now Native American Tribes in Ohio are just trying to have the government recognize their existence. A Native American tribe cannot be recognized without the federal government declaring the tribe is recognized. Imagine someone having to declare your group of people even exist. I am lucky, in that I come from a tribe that the federal government recognizes. Many Native Americans are not so fortunate.

Sovereignty is strange for Native Americans and non Native Americans, because Native Americans that are sovereign have to abide by federal law and not state law, so my tribe in Michigan might not outlaw fireworks while the state does. It is also complex because what if a tribe ever wanted to legalize same sex marriage, prostitution or assisted suicide? These are all up to the tribe in which case my tribe gets a vote from it's members on such issues. The only issue currently is recognizing same sex marriage. My tribe is to conservative to ever address a issue of legalized prostitution or assisted suicide. I only illustrate these issues for the sake of speaking about sovereignty. My tribe is mainly Christian and live as Christians but all religions are accepted openly.

I am fortunate to be a member of a close knit and completely open tribe that communicates with it's tribal members and really looks out for the welfare of all. Some tribes are not so lucky.