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

About the Author
Born in Dayton, Ohio, Tesina first started working as an intern for the Cherokee Phoenix after receiving the John Shurr Journalism Award in 2009. Later that year, Tesina received her bachelor’s degree in journalism from Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., and in 2010 joined the Phoenix staff as a reporter.    

In 2006, Tesina received an internship at The Forum newspaper in Fargo, N.D., after attending the American Indian Journalism Institute at the University of South Dakota. She also attended the AIJI summer program in 2007 and in 2009 she participated in the Native American Journalists Association student projects as a reporter. Tesina is currently a member of NAJA and the Investigative Reporters & Editors organization. • 918-453-5000 ext. 6139
Born in Dayton, Ohio, Tesina first started working as an intern for the Cherokee Phoenix after receiving the John Shurr Journalism Award in 2009. Later that year, Tesina received her bachelor’s degree in journalism from Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., and in 2010 joined the Phoenix staff as a reporter. In 2006, Tesina received an internship at The Forum newspaper in Fargo, N.D., after attending the American Indian Journalism Institute at the University of South Dakota. She also attended the AIJI summer program in 2007 and in 2009 she participated in the Native American Journalists Association student projects as a reporter. Tesina is currently a member of NAJA and the Investigative Reporters & Editors organization.


12/01/2015 03:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – On Dec. 5 the Cherokee Nation will host “Light Up the Christmas Season” with blessings from community leaders, a performance by the Cherokee National Youth Choir and the lighting of the Cherokee National Capitol Square. Leaders from the city of Tahlequah and Northeastern State University will join CN leaders to celebrate the season with the public. First lady Sherry Baker will read “The First Christmas,” and participants will be provided hot chocolate, coffee and cookies. The event begins at 4:30 p.m. is free. The Tahlequah Christmas Parade follows at 6 p.m.
11/30/2015 02:00 PM
MULDROW, Okla. (AP) – The first American soldier to die in combat against the Islamic State group in Iraq was remembered Nov. 24 during a memorial service as a man who was passionate about his wife, children, church and making others happy. The service was held at Trinity United Methodist Church in Muldrow for U.S. Army Master Sgt. Joshua Wheeler, 39, a Cherokee Nation citizen who lived in nearby Roland and graduated Muldrow High School in 1994 before joining the Army a year later. “I was so mad at him when he went to the service, but I want to take it back because good Lord, look what he’s done,” Zach Wheeler, his brother, said during the service. “He’s one of the best soldiers in the world.” Joshua Wheeler joined the Army as an infantryman in 1995 and completed his initial training at Fort Benning in Georgia. He had been assigned to the U.S. Army Special Operations Command in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, since 2004. He was killed Oct. 22 when he and dozens of U.S. special operations troops and Iraqi forces raided a compound near the city of Kirkuk, freeing approximately 70 Iraqi prisoners from captivity. “He made it through so many (tours). We just thought he was invincible,” Joshua Wheeler’s aunt, Linda Cole, said. Wheeler deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq 14 times and received 11 Bronze Stars during his career, and was posthumously awarded a Purple Heart and Silver Star. A private burial was held Nov. 18 at Arlington National Cemetery following a memorial service in North Carolina, where Wheeler lived with his family before he died. He is survived by his wife and four children.
11/30/2015 12:00 PM
OOLOGAH, Okla. – Father Christmas will be at the Will Rogers Birthplace Ranch near Oologah from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Dec. 11-12 for “Will’s Country Christmas,” a first-ever holiday celebration at the ranch. Advance tickets are on sale now at $10 for adults (one night only). Children 17 and under are free. Tickets are limited and must be purchased in advance. They are available at the Will Rogers Memorial Museum admissions desk, Lakeside State Bank in Oologah and RCB Bank, 86th Street in Owasso. Hayrides, caroling, brass trio, walking lantern tours of house and grounds, visiting the house where Rogers was born and stories of Christmas on the prairie will be highlighted by a visit from Father Christmas and photo opportunities. There will be vendors for last minute Christmas shopping. Staff from the Murrell Home at Tahlequah, an Oklahoma Historical Society Museum, will be on hand to help make Christmas ornaments to take home. Because it is a two-day event, people can enjoy Christmas parades in area towns and come to the Birthplace for “Country Christmas” later or on alternate nights. Hot chocolate and cider will be available for purchase when visitors return from the hayride or walk around the ranch grounds. Will’s favorite food, beans and ham, will also be sold with Indian fry bread. Ample parking will be provided in the airstrip area of the ranch. Santa will be available for photo opportunities at the Will Rogers Memorial Museum in Claremore on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., Nov. 28, Dec. 5 and Dec. 12 Admission is free for members and ages 17 and under. For more information, call 918-341-0719 or toll free 1-800-324-9455 or visit <a href="" target="_blank"></a>.
11/27/2015 04:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. (AP) - In preparation for upcoming balloting, the Oklahoma Scenic Rivers Commission has made notification of its Dec. 1 election and eligible candidates. The election is Dec. 1 for commissioners representing Cherokee and Adair counties. Those elected serve a term of four years on the OSRC Board of Commissioners, which numbers 12. Running for Cherokee County representative are Gary Dill, incumbent John Larson, Kathy Ryals and Howard Tate. Incumbent George Stubblefield and Kathy Tibbits are running for Adair County representative. Steve Randall, incumbent, is unopposed for the Delaware County seat. Under its rules, the OSRC must post prior public notice of the election in five conspicuous locations in both Cherokee and Adair counties. It must also be published twice in newspapers of record in each county and sent by email to all on the OSRC email list. Eligible voters must be registered to vote in Oklahoma, and reside or own real property within 660 feet of a scenic river. They must also have filed a voter registration qualification affidavit with the OSRC between 2001 and Nov. 7, 2015. Absentee voting is prohibited. Voters may cast ballots from 7 a.m. – 7 p.m. Cherokee County polling site is OSRC Headquarters, 15971 Highway 10, two miles northeast of Tahlequah. Adair County polling site is the Chewey Area Community Center. For further information contact Ed Fite, OSRC administrator, at 918-456-3251 or write to <a href="mailto:"></a>.
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11/27/2015 12:00 PM
OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association held a Nov. 17 press conference at the Gaylord-Pickens Oklahoma Heritage Museum to celebrate tribal gaming’s nearly billion-dollar contribution to education in the state. OIGA officials released findings from the 2015 Inaugural Statewide Economic Impact from Oklahoma Tribal Governmental Gaming study. The study states more than $980 million from Oklahoma-based gaming tribes has been deposited into two state education funds in the 10 years since gaming was approved by a statewide vote. “We are thrilled to share the results of this important study, and happy to have such a great story to tell about our vital and growing industry,” OIGA Chairman Brian Foster said. “We are very proud of the enormous contribution our Oklahoma tribes in gaming have been able to make to education and look forward to that number growing substantially in the coming years. With our continued commitment to financially supporting education in Oklahoma, we want to become a driving force in making our state’s education system one others want to emulate.’’ According to the Cherokee Nation’s gaming compact with Oklahoma, the tribe pays fees on Class III gaming activities to the state’s treasurer. The compact states the tribe pays 4 percent of the first $10 million, 5 percent of the next $10 million and 6 percent of any subsequent amount of adjusted gross revenues received by the tribe from its electronic games, as well as a monthly 10 percent payment of net wins from non-house banked card games. In exchange for these fees, the tribe receives certain geographic exclusivity, limits to the number of gaming machines at existing horse racing tracks and the prohibition of non-tribal operation of certain machines and covered games. Prior to the 2004 approval of State Question 712, Oklahoma-based tribes could only operate Class I or Class II gaming, which did not require state compacts. According to, there are now 34 tribes that have state gaming compacts. According to a Nov. 16 Cherokee Nation Gaming Commission report, the CN has paid $162.9 million in gaming exclusivity fees, or compact fees, to the state since 2005. That report also states that $12.1 million in compact fees had been paid this year, with four months remaining. According to the report, compact fees include payments to the state, Fair Meadows racetrack in Tulsa and the Oklahoma Horse Racing Commission. The Nation’s payments to the state alone total $111.7 million since 2005, according to the CNGC report. Principal Chief Bill John Baker said the OIGA study shows tribal governments have and will continue to make the state stronger and better for all Oklahomans. “For the Cherokee Nation and other tribes in Oklahoma, gaming represents economic opportunities that improve the lives of our tribal citizens. But secondary economic impacts from gaming revenues are equally important. The direct revenue we pay to the state of Oklahoma is significant, but the Cherokee Nation and other tribes also support thousands and thousands of jobs. That impact on Oklahoma families is immeasurable,” he said. “Money generated by our casinos also creates additional educational opportunities for our children, improves roads and infrastructure in our neighborhoods, provides greater access to quality health care and creates homeownership opportunities for our citizens. Our impact on the lives of Oklahomans is very real. Since the passage of State Question 712, 10 years ago, the tangible results have far surpassed initial expectations, and we are eager to continue our work making Oklahoma better for all.” According to OIGA, the state initially projected $71 million per year in revenue from gaming compacts. Other highlights of the study were: • The total estimated impact on Oklahoma from gaming was nearly $6.2 billion in 2014, • Tribal gaming is now Oklahoma’s 19th largest employment sector, • In 2014, tribal gaming supported 23,277 jobs – 19,523 of which were full-time positions, • Tribal gaming workers earned $1.16 billion in wages and benefits in 2014, and • Gaming workers paid more than $264 million in state and federal payroll taxes in 2014. For more information on the OIGA study, go to <a href="" target="_blank"></a>.
11/26/2015 04:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – On Nov. 21, the 2015-16 Cherokee Nation Tribal Youth Councilors were sworn into office to begin serving and potentially help shape future tribal policy. “It’s going to be a good opportunity to get involved and make a difference and build relationships within the tribe,” Laurel Reynolds, a Claremore High School sophomore, said. The 17-member Council learns the CN Constitution and bylaws and identifies issues affecting Cherokee youths to pass on to the Tribal Council and administration. The leadership program started in 1989 and has 184 alumni. Students meet monthly and serve as tribal ambassadors. “The best days of the Cherokee Nation are in front of us and we need leaders in every field imaginable from doctors, lawyers, engineers, teachers, administrators and business people. Leadership starts with young people like you, who are willing to serve,” Principal Chief Bill John Baker said. “The Tribal Youth Council is an opportunity for young Cherokees from all over the 14-county tribal jurisdiction to gain exposure to our tribal government, get to know the elected officials and have a voice in the discussions that will impact the Cherokee Nation today and in the future.” The 2015-16 Tribal Youth Council members are Taylor Armbrister, of Kansas; Jori Cowley, of Vinita; Bradley Fields, of Locust Grove; Amy Hembree, of Tahlequah; Camerin James, of Fort Gibson; Austin Jones, of Hulbert; Destiny Matthews, of Watts; Emily Messimore, of Claremore; Treyton Morris, of Salina; Sarah Pilcher, of Westville; Sunday Plumb, of Tahlequah; Laurel Reynolds, of Claremore; Abigail Shepherd, of Ochelata; Julie Thornton, of Gore; Chelbie Turtle of Tahlequah; Jackson Wells, of Tahlequah; and Sky Wildcat, of Tahlequah.