Home > News > More Headlines > Indian land bill draws complaints from all sides
Printer friendly version
Indian land bill draws complaints from all sides
THURSDAY, MAY 8, 2003

The Bush administration and tribal representatives asked a Senate committee on Wednesday not to move forward with a controversial trust reform bill they characterized as too confusing.

Wayne Nordwall, a Bureau of Indian Affairs regional director, said the proposal only makes an already complicated situation worse. It fails to resolve the increasing fractionation of Indian lands, a growing problem, he said.

"We can't interpret it and we know we can't explain it to Indian people," he told the Senate Indian Affairs Committee.

Agreeing were the Indian Land Tenure Foundation, the Indian Land Working Group and the Inter-Tribal Monitoring Association. In written and oral testimony, the organizations, which represent dozens of tribes and individual Indians, opposed the creation of a "passive" trust, a new status of land ownership.

"The amendments that are proposed here," said Cris Stainbrook, executive director of the non-profit ILTF, "we still believe that they contain some provisions that limit self-determination and threaten the Indian land base."

Sens. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colo.), Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) and Craig Thomas (R-Wyo.) are the sponsors of the American Indian Probate Reform Act of 2003. With it, they hope to stem the complex division of Indian lands into smaller and often unmanageable interests by creating a uniform inheritance code.

No one who spoke at the hearing opposed the national probate standard. Currently, Indian landowners are subject to 33 state laws, which can lead to unfair treatment, according to government officials and tribal leaders. Inter-tribal marriage complicates matters, said John Berrey, chairman of the Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma and a member of a Department of Interior committee that is studying trust management issues.

Only Ben O'Neal, a council member for the Eastern Shoshone Tribe of Wyoming, supported the passive trust. He said it would allow his children, who are not members of the tribe, to inherit 1,200 acres of ranch land.

Otherwise, he is forced to remove the land from trust status. "I find this unacceptable," he told the committee.

But Sally Willit, a judge who testified for the Indian Land Working Group, said there are ways to draft a law to ensure lineal descendants who are not tribal members can inherit land. "A membership definition orphans millions of people," said Willit. The overwhelming majority of Indians, 75 percent, she said, marry outside of their tribe.

Muddying the waters, witnesses noted, is an earlier version of the bill, passed in 2000, that has caused "panic" and "fear" in Indian Country. Nordwall, Stainbrook and Willit said landowners, particularly elders, are so confused with the law that they are taking their land out of trust status.

The 2000 act is controversial because its definition of "Indian" cuts out lineal descendants with Indian blood but who aren't enrolled. Due to numerous complaints, the Interior hasn't "certified" the act, or made it effective. The Senate committee has supported the delay.

But Nordwall said Secretary Gale Norton is considering implementing the 2000 definitions as early as this year because of the need to combat the increasing division of Indian land.

"We are at the point that within another generation or two that this land is going to be so fractionated that we're not going to be able to know who owns it, we're not going to be able to account for income that comes in," he said. "It's essentially going to become almost worthless."

Campbell said he wanted to develop amendments that are "acceptable" and "understandable" to parties involved. "My morning started out pretty good until I came here," he said.

Thomas questioned whether it was wise for the government to spend money and time on land consolidation when some of the interests are of little value. "The department hasn't done a hell of a lot" over the years, he observed, because fractionation was a known problem as early as the 1930s.

"Just because the issues are difficult doesn't mean they should be prolonged forever," he told Nordwall.

Inouye didn't attend the hearing as Campbell had expected. No Democratic staff members were present either.

Get the Bill:
S.550

Relevant Documents:
SCIA Witness List (May 7, 2003)

Related Stories:
Congress tackles trust land reform bill (5/6)
Bush land program called inadequate (5/6)
Accounting of trust land pushed (5/6)
Judge upholds ongoing trust relationship (04/29)
Bush administration turns to Congress on trust (04/04)
Appropriators question historical accounting plan (03/13)
Passive trust faces test in new Congress (11/25)
Senate approves omnibus Indian package (11/21)
Bill offers 'extinguishment' of trust fund claims (11/06)
Legislation to create a 'passive' Indian trust (10/18)
Take a pass on passive Indian trust (10/18)
Trust reform legislation sidetracked (10/17)
Tribes enter 'new phase' in trust reform battle (10/03)
Sparks fly at trust reform meeting (9/27)
Here comes BITAM all over again (9/27)
Bush proposal to take 'unclaimed' Indian land (09/26)
Rift widens on trust reform negotiations (9/12)
Tribes scrap talks on trust standards (9/11)
Tribal leaders debate trust reform bill (05/23)
Interior considering a limited trust fund (3/15)

Copyright © Indianz.Com

Stay Connected

On Facebook

On Twitter

On Google+

On SoundCloud

More Headlines

First Lady Michelle Obama shares story of hope with Indian school (5/26)
Remarks by First Lady Michelle Obama at Santa Fe Indian School (5/26)
Gary Davis of NCAIED joins Small Business Administration council (5/26)
Arne Vainio: A mother's gift carried me through many life journeys (5/26)
Native Sun News: Tribes score big in fights against energy projects (5/26)
Lakota Country Times: Education Secretary hears from Pine Ridge (5/26)
Ivan Star Comes Out: Ending Whiteclay beer sales starts at home (5/26)
Vi Waln: Rosebud Sioux youth lead efforts to bring relatives home (5/26)
Gyasi Ross: Drug epidemic sweeping through Native communities (5/26)
Jacqueline Keeler: Shameful and skewed poll on racist NFL name (5/26)
Interview with Melvin Monette about Cobell scholarship program (5/26)
Auction house in France won't stop sale of sacred tribal property (5/26)
United Keetoowah Band installs new leader after impeachment (5/26)
Kewa Pueblo builds new community around historic trading post (5/26)
Eastern Cherokee elder translates 'Charlotte's Web' into Tsalagi (5/26)
Puyallup Tribe works to keep language alive for new generations (5/26)
Iowa Tribe offers free play on poker website ahead of full launch (5/26)
Alabama-Coushatta Tribe offers gaming options closer to home (5/26)
Kaw Nation receives national award for tribal gaming initiatives (5/26)
Indian Health Service reform efforts gaining steam on Capitol Hill (5/25)
Indian Health Service announces more hires at troubled hospital (5/25)
Keepseagle attorneys open application process for $38M in grants (5/25)
Three tribes enter cooperative agreements for buy-back program (5/25)
New leader selected for HUD's Office of Native American Programs (5/25)
Indian relay racers gear up for event hosted by Muckleshoot Tribe (5/25)
Cronkite News: Tribes seek return of property up for sale in France (5/25)
Native Sun News: Anti-suicide effort incorporates tribal traditions (5/25)
Lakota Country Times: Pine Ridge youth showcase film projects (5/25)
Mark Trahant: Native vote victory for Tawna Sanchez in Oregon (5/25)
Brandon Ecoffey: Lakota people come together in times of need (5/25)
Editorial: Tribes must come up with plan for return of Black Hills (5/25)
John McCoy: Disenrollment and blood quantum are not our way (5/25)
Adrian Jawort: Addressing race relations and healing in Montana (5/25)
Fort Peck Tribes oppose new directive on transgender students (5/25)
Leader of United Keetoowah Band ousted through impeachment (5/25)
Agua Caliente Band launches software development company (5/25)
Sen. Barrasso to chair platform committee for GOP convention (5/25)
Cowlitz Tribe welcomes discussions with opponent over casino (5/25)
Little Traverse Bay Bands open doors to Class II gaming facility (5/25)
Tuolumne Band celebrates 15th birthday with casino expansion (5/25)
Former Winnebago Tribe casino employee denies theft charge (5/25)
Proposed rule brings LGBT equality to tribal housing programs (5/24)
Chairman of Quapaw Tribe endorses Democrat Hillary Clinton (5/24)
Appropriations bill blocks new federal recognition regulation (5/24)
Native American Children's Safety Act clears final Hill hurdle (5/24)
9th Circuit won't rehear Tohono O'odham Nation gaming case (5/24)
Lakota Country Times: Army promises return of tribal children (5/24)
Native Sun News: New business sprouts up at Wounded Knee (5/24)
Mark Trahant: Tulalip citizen lands role in Democratic platform (5/24)
Brandon Ecoffey: Pine Ridge unites for search of missing men (5/24)
Men who went missing found dead on Pine Ridge Reservation (5/24)
Billy Mills: Flawed poll can't justify use of team's racist mascot (5/24)
more headlines...

Advertisement

Home | Arts & Entertainment | Business | Canada | Cobell Lawsuit | Education | Environment | Federal Recognition | Federal Register | Forum | Health | Humor | Indian Gaming | Indian Trust | Jack Abramoff Scandal | Jobs & Notices | Law | National | News | Opinion | Politics | Sports | Technology | World

Indianz.Com Terms of Service | Indianz.Com Privacy Policy
About Indianz.Com | Advertise on Indianz.Com

Indianz.Com is a product of Noble Savage Media, LLC and Ho-Chunk, Inc.