Right now, the feds are required to respond to any written comments submitted to them on the $1.9 billion Cobell settlement plan to buy your fractionated land and minerals. Tell the feds that you are keeping your land and minerals for your descendants. You're not selling.
Due to the comment deadline ending next week, individual tribal land and mineral owners—and their family members—should email or mail their comments NOW opposing this plan to purchase lands and minerals through a one-time payment based on a "mass estimate” of the value of both your fractionated lands and minerals. Under this expedited and rushed plan – due to an arbitrary 10-year deadline – no actual appraisal of your land and minerals will be done.
Your e-mailed or written comments objecting to this plan are needed by or before next Monday, March 4, 2013.
The original Cobell lawsuit was about individual Indian losses due to DOI/BIA systematic mismanagement over decades. This current plan to use $1.9 billion of the Cobell settlement to buy allottee fractionated land is only designed to benefit DOI recordkeeping and a limited number of tribal governments. This plan relies on individual tribal members being willing – or led – to sell their land and minerals.
The BIA Director, Mike Black, has acknowledged that a tribal government can later condemn and aquire the rest of your land—and minerals—after it has been aided through this Cobell plan to acquire 51% or more of your fractionated interests.
Sadly, we already know there are significant lack of protections for individual tribal members within many reservation boundaries. Efforts to change the 1930's IRA "tribal" constitutions to reflect the cultural values that previously supported and protected the rights of tribal members are overcome by inertia and the embedded self-interest of the tribal-federal system. It is paramount that individual Indian land and mineral owners be aware of the implications of this plan.
So, how should this land component of the Cobell settlement actually benefit you, the individual tribal member instead? The $1.9 billion of the Cobell settlement should be put into already-proven beneficial ways for INDIVIDUAL tribal members to consolidate their fractionated interests: through estate planning, will preparation, and individual efforts already being done now by tribal members to consolidate their own land AND minerals for both themselves and their future descendants.
Remind DOI that it has a trust responsibility to individual tribal members – not just to tribal governments. A Fortune 500 company can manage recordkeeping for thousands of stockholders – while in comparison, DOI has mismanaged it’s recordkeeping responsibilities to a relatively smaller population of individual Indian allottees. With the complicity of a few tribal governments, DOI is, again, attempting to dodge its’ trust responsibilities to all individual tribal members by compromising the original intent of the Cobell lawsuit and settlement.
Besides filing your comments to the feds, also call and tell your senator that you object to DOI’s attempt to evade its’ evade its’ trust responsibilities to you through this hijacked Cobell land sale plan. No individual Indian land and mineral owners were notified, nor invited, to the three federal meetings with tribal governments about this plan. Tell your senator that the $1.9 billion of this settlement must benefit the original plaintiffs of the Cobell settlement – the individual Indian allottee land and mineral owner.
The notice about this Cobell land plan, including the federal requirement to accept and respond to your comments, is in the online Federal Register Volume 77, Number 245 (Thursday, December 20, 2012)] [Notices] [Pages 75442-75443.]
You only have until next Monday, March 4, 2013 to email your comments to: firstname.lastname@example.org or either send a written letter by mail, post-marked, to U.S. Department of the Interior, MS-7323-MIB, 1849 C Street NW., Washington, DC 20240.
According to this online Federal Register notice, you can also email or call Anthony.Walters@bia.gov; (202) 513-0897 for more information.
Theodora Bird Bear is an enrolled tribal member of the Three Affiliated Tribes, a long-term Mandaree resident, and a postal patron of the Mandaree post office.