Native American Land and Classism

Reservations are not traditionally known for their affluent living conditions. Some tribes are better off than others, but overall tribes tend to scrape by. This condition of Native life is the result of years upon years of being shuffled aside by the United States Government.

All Natives know the history to some extent. Broken treaties. The Homestead Act that pushed native tribes off the land they stewarded; the Dawes Act that decimated the tenant of community by separating tribal land into smaller chunks for individual tribe members. The Burke Act allowed the Secretary of Interior to remove lands from trust in order to sell or tax native lands. Little by little, bit by bit. Each move gradually drove Native people a little further into poverty. 

The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) is one of the factors that ensured that many Native tribes still face poverty today. The Bureau controls everything. Who the manager of the account is, how assets are used, and how revenue is generated. Unfortunately most managers in charge of funds at the BIA have mismanaged how resources on lands, the lands themselves, and the profits are used. If that means that the profits go to non-Native companies who want to mine the oil and coal, cut down the trees, and make use of our fishing grounds … as if the tribes didn’t really need the billions of dollars that were mismanaged over the last few decades.

As if that is not bad enough, until recently tribes have had limited capability of applying for loans. Tribes and tribal members could not borrow money to improve, purchase, or build homes. The problem was that the property that they would put the mortgage on was "trusted" to the United States government, otherwise known as “trust land.” This meant that it could not be sold. Lenders were unwilling to take the chance that they could not collect the property as payment for an unpaid loan. This kept tribal members in the unenviable situation where they needed to improve their living arrangements, but could not, nor could they acquire the proper funds. 

In an effort to solve this problem, HUD 184 was created. HUD is better known as the Housing and Community Development Act. Section 184 allows tribes and tribal members to request that land in trust become a leasehold estate. This allows a mortgage to be taken on a lease that is associated with the land. If the Native borrower cannot repay the loan, the lender will be repaid by HUD, which will then take over the leasehold. 

This is a miniscule step in the right direction. Loans should not be necessary if the American government would release control of Native land to the tribes, or at the very least, ensure that the funds were used in a manner that would benefit the tribes and not outside entities.

Tim Richmond writes about the mortgage industry, personal finance and home ownership. He currently writes for the Native American mortgage specialists 1st Tribal Lending and enjoys the study of American and World history. Aside from all this writing, and studying, he enjoys all kinds of music and loves to spend time in the mountains.



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Native American Land and Classism