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Dina Gilio-Whitaker: Winners and losers in Cobell settlement

Filed Under: Cobell | Opinion
More on: bia, dina gilio whitaker, land consolidation

"Now that we have the obstacles cleared for the federal government to start making payouts under the Cobell settlement, we can expect tribal governments to begin their land consolidation processes. Recall that the settlement allocated $1.5 billion to be paid out to individual Indian holders of IIM accounts, $60 million for an Indian scholarship fund and the remaining $1.9 billion for tribal governments to consolidate fractionated allotment interests. According to the Department of the Interior, as of 2009 there were more than 4 million fractionated interests totaling somewhere around 11,000,000 acres of land; to put it into perspective, this is equivalent to a land area that would be larger than the states of Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island combined. The Tribal Court Clearinghouse says that it costs $33 million (which is between 50% to 75% of the BIA’s realty budget) per year to administer those fractionated interests, many of them which may not even produce the amount of money it costs just to maintain the accounts.

Clearly, it's a problem. The fractionated interests are framed as a problem for tribes and individual Indians not just because of how much money it costs the BIA, but because they are said to have no value due to their "uselessness." Because hundreds or thousands of people may own interests in one allotment and law requires that if the land was to be developed by anyone of those people (even for something as simple as building a house), they would need the consent of at least 51% of the other landholders, a scenario unlikely to happen anywhere. This renders the land “useless” and “valueless.”"

Get the Story:
Dina Gilio-Whitaker: Who Were the Biggest Winners of the Cobell Settlement (Besides the Lawyers)? (Indian Country Today 12/10)

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