Cherokees may wait 10 years for Cobell land buys

05/06/2013 08:57 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee Nation citizens who signed up for the Land Buy-Back Program under the $3.4 billion Cobell Settlement may be waiting up to 10 years before selling their fractionated lands.

As part of the settlement that dealt with lost royalties, the Interior Department established the Land Buy-Back Program for Tribal Nations, which Congress approved on Nov. 24, 2012. The program calls for a $1.9 billion Trust Land Consolidation Fund for resource mismanagement and consolidation of fractionated lands.

“A fractionated track is a parcel of land owned by multiple owners or few (people) to many (people),” Steve Beleu, director of the U.S. Government Information Division at the Oklahoma Department of Libraries, said.

The money must be expended by Nov. 24, 2022, according to the settlement.

The fractionation of Indian lands is a result of the General Allotment Act of 1887, or the Dawes Act, which allowed tribal lands to be allotted to individual tribal citizens in 80- or 160-acre parcels. The number of fractional land interests grew by 12.5 percent from 2007 to 2011.

There are approximately 150 tribal nations and/or reservations with 2.9 million fractional land interests owned by more than 219,000 individuals that will participate in the Land Buy-Back Program, Beleu said.

Ninety percent of the purchasable fractional interests are located within the top 40 of the 150 tribal nations and/or reservations that have purchasable fractional interests. The CN is ranked at 145.

“The top 40 are the ones that have the highest percentage of highly fractionated land,” Beleu said. “The owners tend to be more willing to sell, and those owners tend to be older in age so they could actually personally benefit from the buy back.”

Within the CN, there are only 135 fractionated tracts containing purchasable interests and no highly fractionated tracts. Sixty-six Cherokees who owned fractionated land are over the age of 65.

The program seeks to support tribal sovereignty by providing individual American Indians opportunities to get cash payments for voluntarily transferring their fractional land interests. Upon transfer, the interests will be held in trust for the benefit of the tribe with jurisdiction over the lands.

More than $1.7 billion of the $1.9 billion is expected to go to the top 40 tribes. About $130 million will go to the rest of the tribes not in the top 40.

“Within years to come, the BIA (Bureau of Indian Affairs) will be setting up pilot programs working with tribal governments and concentrate on buying back lands,” Beleu said.

CN Communications said the BIA has not contacted the Nation as of April 30.

918-453-5000, ext. 6139


Senior Reporter – @cp_wchavez
08/23/2016 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Attorneys for former Cherokee Nation Foundation Executive Director Kimberlie Gilliland filed a motion in the tribe’s District Court on Aug. 17 requesting the court stay a civil case filed against her on July 27 by the CNF. The stay is requested pending the disposition of a criminal case against Gilliland filed by the CN attorney general’s office on July 28 alleging embezzlement and fraud during her time as CNF executive director. In the civil case, Gilliland faces 22 counts that stem from a more-than-two-year investigation involving irregularities in her salary, travel expenses, spending and awarding of CNF scholarships. Gilliland was appointed to serve as CNF executive director in August 2009 and served until July 2013. Gilliland has called the court filings “baseless.” Her request for a stay states that eight of the nine counts in the criminal case “are based upon the same allegations” in the civil case and that she would face a dilemma of self-incrimination in the criminal case if she chooses to defend herself against the civil charges. The motion also states a stay pending a final resolution of the criminal case “would further the interests” of the court and “would not harm the public.” Her civil case attorney, James Proszek of the law firm Hall, Estill, Hardwick, Gable of Tulsa, signed the motion. Also on Aug. 17, her attorney in the civil suit filed a motion to dismiss embezzlement and conversion claims by CNF attorney Ralph Keen. The motion claims the embezzlement and conversion claims were filed two years after the claims accrued and exceed statute of limitations and should be dismissed. District Judge Bart Fite had not responded to the two motions as of publication.
Senior Reporter – @cp_jmurphy
08/23/2016 08:15 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – At an Aug. 19 press conference, Tahlequah Police Chief Nate King said he believed his officers were justified in shooting 49-year-old Cherokee Nation citizen Dominic Rollice while responding to an Aug. 12 disturbance. Rollice was transported to Northeast Health System where he was pronounced dead. At the press conference, King released the incident’s 911 call as well as body camera footage from one officer that showed the shooting. According to the 911 call, at about 9:35 p.m. Rollice was “drunk” at the caller’s home in the Shawnee Court vicinity. The caller said she was afraid the situation was going to “get ugly real quick.” King said Rollice was at the home, in which he did not live, and would not leave. Lt. Brandon Vick and Officers Josh Girdner and Chase Reed arrived at the home shortly after the call, King said. Reed’s body camera footage shows the three policemen speaking to Rollice and then following him into a garage. After Rollice retreats to the back of the garage, he pulls a claw hammer from a tool bench area and holds it above his head. The footage shows the officers ordering him to drop the hammer several times. Rollice says “no” and states that he’s in his house and he’s doing “nothing wrong.” Video shows Reed stating that he’s going to use his Taser and Rollice making a quick movement with the hammer. Girdner and Vick then fire six gunshots at Rollice at the same time Reed fires his Taser. After falling to the floor, the footage shows Reed performing CPR until emergency responders arrive. King said the footage shows a “violent encounter which resulted in the loss of a human life” and that the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation is investigating the shooting. He said the OSBI interviewed the three officers on Aug. 18 and that the officers were on paid administrative leave until the investigation is complete. King added that the OSBI would provide the investigation’s results to the district attorney, who would then determine whether the shooting was justified. Although, the shooting is under investigation, King said he felt the officers followed procedure and were justified in how they handled the situation. The Cherokee Phoenix contacted Rollice’s parents for comment, but they declined. Court records show Rollice pleaded no contest to a 2015 child sexual abuse charge in Cherokee County and was serving a suspended sentence.
08/22/2016 08:15 PM
The Cherokee Phoenix Editorial Board will meet at 9:30 a.m. CST, Sept. 1, 2016, inside the Tribal Services conference room in the Cherokee Nation complex. It is an open meeting and the public is welcome to attend. <a href="" target="_blank">Click here to view</a>the agenda.
08/22/2016 04:00 PM
TULSA, Okla. – The Alzheimer’s Association Oklahoma Chapter will hold its 2016 Walk to End Alzheimer’s on Oct. 22 at the Guthrie Green located at 111 E. Mathew B. Brady St. Registration begins at 8 a.m. with a ceremony at 9 a.m. and the walk at 9:30 a.m. The walk’s length is 1.5 miles. “Alzheimer’s is an epidemic devastating our families, our finances and our futures. The disease is all around us, but the power to stop it is within us. Join us for the Alzheimer’s Association Walk to End Alzheimer’s and be inspired by all the footsteps that fall into place behind yours. Together, we can end Alzheimer’s,” Nellie Windsor, Alzheimer’s Association Oklahoma Chapter communications director, said. According to the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, Alzheimer’s is a progressive, degenerative disorder that attacks the brain’s nerve cells, or neurons, resulting in loss of memory, thinking and language skills and behavioral changes. For more information, call Leeanna Tomah at?918-392-5010 or email <a href="mailto:"></a> or visit <a href="" target="_blank"></a>.
08/22/2016 12:00 PM
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) – An agreement that settles longstanding lawsuits involving water rights in the historic treaty territories of the Choctaw and Chickasaw nations in south central and southeastern Oklahoma was announced Aug. 11 by Gov. Mary Fallin, Oklahoma City officials and tribal leaders. The agreement provides a framework for intergovernmental collaboration on water resource issues that protects existing water rights and ends water and tribal sovereignty disputes stemming back to the 19th century, officials said while unveiling details of the agreement. “This is a big deal for our state,” Fallin said. “Having a sufficient and reliable supply of water is essential. It provides certainty for future development.” “The agreement also allows the Choctaw and Chickasaw nations to have a voice in specific proceedings addressing water resources within their treaty territories,” she said. Choctaw Nation Chief Gary Batton said the agreement includes a system of lake level release restrictions to conserve water resources for recreational activities in the region, a priority of the tribal governments. “This process we call mediation, it’s a wonderful process, it’s a difficult process,” Batton said. “At the end of the day, we all came together in the spirit of unity.” “This is an historic agreement,” Chickasaw Nation Gov. Bill Anoatubby said. “While we’ve been sovereign since time immemorial, sovereignty is something we should never take for granted. As tribal leaders, we have a duty to engage in this process and exercise our right as sovereign nations to protect the interests of our people.” The Chickasaw and Choctaw nations have long accused Oklahoma of not abiding by the 1830 Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek, which gave the tribes authority over water in their jurisdiction. The state argued that the tribes were ignoring an 1866 pact in which they gave up certain rights after backing the Confederates in the Civil War. The current fight started in 2011 after Oklahoma City sought rights to water from a southeastern Oklahoma reservoir, Sardis Lake. The tribes filed a federal lawsuit alleging that the Oklahoma Water Resources Board had no right to consider an offer to use water from traditional Native American homeland. Oklahoma countersued, saying it wanted a court to resolve where the tribes’ rights begin and end in the Kiamichi, Muddy Boggy and Clear Boggy Watersheds in southeastern Oklahoma. Under the settlement, Oklahoma would continue to manage the state’s natural water supply but acknowledge tribal sovereignty and meet the tribes’ conservation guidelines, officials said. The deal also guarantees Oklahoma City’s long-term access to Sardis Lake. The agreement was signed Aug. 10 by U.S. District Judge Lee West. Congressional approval is also required. The dispute over Sardis Lake, which was built by the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, is one of several that have focused on southeastern Oklahoma’s abundant water resources. The region’s Atoka pipeline has transported water to Oklahoma City and surrounding areas in central Oklahoma for about 50 years. In 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled in Oklahoma’s favor in a lawsuit filed in 2007 by the Tarrant Regional Water District in North Texas that sought access to southeastern Oklahoma tributaries of the Red River that separates the two states. The agreement does not authorize out-of-state use or diversion of water, which remains unlawful in the state. But it calls for a commission to evaluate the impacts of future proposals for out-of-state water use, which would remain subject to legislative authorization. In the Sardis Lake case, the tribes initially sought, among other things, an injunction against the Oklahoma Water Resources Board and the Oklahoma Water Conservation Storage Commission. The state responded with its own lawsuit in February 2012 asking the Oklahoma Supreme Court to decide what rights the two tribes actually have to water in the region. The state’s lawsuit was transferred to federal court and formal mediation began in July 2012. It took five years to settle the Sardis Lake dispute, but other water fights, especially in the drought-prone West, have dragged on far longer. In 2010, officials in New Mexico settled a 1966 lawsuit involving more than 2,500 defendants in a case involving four Native American pueblos and non-Native American residents in northern Santa Fe County.
08/20/2016 10:00 AM
STILWELL, Okla. – Cherokee Nation officials recently joined Cherokee National Treasure Donald Vann to unveil an original painting of former Principal Chief Wilma Mankiller. The painting depicts Mankiller wearing a tear dress, holding a blanket and basket filled with traditional Cherokee medicine plants. Vann painted Mankiller’s image standing in front of the newly renovated and expanded Wilma P. Mankiller Health Center, which will house the painting. Mankiller was the CN’s first and only female principal chief who served from 1985-95. She died at age 64 on April 6, 2010, at her home in rural Adair County shortly after being diagnosed with advanced pancreatic cancer.