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Court master releases report on Navajo appraisals
Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Navajo allottees are not receiving fair market value for use of their land, the court master in the Cobell v. Norton lawsuit said in a report today.

Special master Alan Balaran said the Department of Interior has been undervaluing land owned by Navajo tribal members. The allottees were paid far less for rights of way than private landowners and even the Navajo Nation, he said.

According to a Bureau of Indian Affairs appraiser interviewed for the report, the going rate for Navajo allottees was $25 to $50 per rod. A rod is a unit of distance equal to 5.5 yards.

But an examination of records found that other landowners were getting up to $575 per rod, Balaran said. The low end was $165 per rod.

"The potential range of loss to Trust beneficiaries is as much as $170-550 per rod," Balaran wrote.

Depending on the acreage involved, Navajo allottees could be losing millions, according to the calculations in the report.

During a site visit to BIA offices on the Navajo Nation, Balaran said he found several problems. One was that the chief BIA appraiser admitted to erasing "all of the appraisal information stored on his computer." The appraiser -- who now works in another region of the BIA doing appraisals -- could not locate key documents to guide the appraisal of Navajo allotted land either, the report stated.

A BIA realty officer told Balaran that "Navajo allottees do not receive 'the benefit of their bargain,'" the report notes. The realty officer said oil and gas companies seeking the rights of way negotiate with the allottees a process that leaves them open to fraud because they do not have accurate information about the market value of their land.

Get the Report:
SITE VISIT REPORT OF THE SPECIAL MASTER TO THE OFFICE OF APPRAISAL SERVICES IN GALLUP, NEW MEXICO AND THE BUREAU OF INDIAN AFFAIRS NAVAJO REALTY OFFICE IN WINDOW ROCK, ARIZONA (August 20, 2003)

Relevant Links:
Office of Special Trustee - http://www.ost.doi.gov
Indian Trust: Cobell v. Norton - http://www.indiantrust.com

Related Stories:
Swimmer weighs consolidation of appraisals (8/15)
Norton admits Interior hid facts from Congress (7/24)
Navajo trust fund manager targeted in internal probe (07/15)
Indian employees challenging DOI reorganization (06/03)
Navajo leaders criticize upheaval at trust fund office (05/09)
Confusion detailed at Interior (10/16)
DOI land swap program to be reviewed (10/11)
Norton land deal subject of dispute (10/01)
DOI approved $100M land 'giveaway' (8/19)

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