Gabe Galanda: More bad moves for Indian land consolidation

" There were several revelations from the Department of the Interior during its tribal consultation in Seattle last week. Interior officials successfully conveyed to Indian leaders their best of intentions as to the copy.9 billion Indian land consolidation effort, which they disclaimed as having inherited from the Cobell parties. What became obvious from the session is how difficult, if not impossible, it will be to carry out the agency’s fractionated Indian land buy back program.

Most controversial, is Interior’s stated intent to focus 90% of copy.55 billion allocated for fractionated land acquisition—meaning copy.39 billion—on 40 reservations, because the agency claims that 90% of the “purchasable fractionated interests” are located on those 40 reservations. Interior has compiled a “Top 40” list of tribes. As to the other 110 reservations that Interior says have purchasable fractionated interests, they would be collectively allocated the remaining 10%, or merely copy63 million. The rest of Indian Country, as many as 415 tribes, are not listed for federal buy back program funding. Interior should open the program to any tribe whose reservation includes fractionated Indian lands.

If that were not bad enough, some of the “Top 40” tribes are encouraging Interior to restrict the $60 million in Cobell scholarship monies to only those 40 listed tribes. This, despite the fact that the hundreds of thousands of Cobell plaintiffs hail from far more than 40 and in fact hundreds of tribal communities. These issues prompted one Umatilla leader at the consultation to decry that Interior’s entire land consolidation program will, federal intentions aside, yet again divide and conquer Indian Country. She could very well be right. In any event, Interior should allow scholarships for any federally-recognized Indian student."

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Gabe Galanda: The Indian Land Consolidation Plot Thickens (Indian Country Today 2/23)

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