Echo Hawk affirms UKB's right to follow land-into-trust process
The United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians and its members can follow the land-into-trust process, Assistant Secretary Larry Echo Hawk said in a decision on Friday.

In 1946, Congress identified the UKB as eligible to organize under the Oklahoma Indian Welfare Act. Four years later, the tribe set up its government and its corporation.

But the tribe's ability to follow the land-into-trust process fell in doubt after the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision in Carcieri v. Salazar. The ruling restricted the process to tribes that were "under federal jurisdiction" in 1934, when the Indian Reorganization Act became law.

However, Echo Hawk cited three ways in which the UKB can follow the process without running afoul of the Supreme Court's decision. First, he said, the IRA allows the BIA to acquire land in trust for "persons of one-half or more Indian blood."

This section of IRA does not include a temporal restriction. So Echo Hawk said individual members of UKB can file land-into-trust applications and transfer their interests to the tribe at a later date.

Second, Echo Hawk said Section 3 of the Oklahoma Indian Welfare Act allows tribal corporations to follow the land-into-trust process regardless of the date they organized. The UKB's corporation is eligible for all of the "rights or privileges" found in the IRA, according to the decision.

Finally, Echo Hawk said Section 1 of OIWA provides another avenue for the tribe. Under this part of the law, the UKB can file land-into-trust applications for "agricultural and grazing land of good character in proportion to [its] respective needs," according to the decision.

"We look at this as a complete victory," Keetoowah Chief George Wickliffe told The Tulsa World.

The Cherokee Nation has opposed the UKB's ability to follow the land-into-trust process. The Cherokee Nation claims it has veto authority over the UKB's applications.

Get the Story:
Keetowah Band approved for trust land (The Tulsa World 9/11)

Relevant Documents:
Larry Echo Hawk Decision on UKB Land-Into-Trust (September 10, 2010)

Related Stories:
BIA holds off on Keetoowah Band land-into-trust (6/26)