I thought is was about time to add something to our site.  Even though I don't always see some of the articles that are posted in major newspapers, there are some of you members who do, and pass them along to both Clanmother Marilyn and me - Eel Clan Chief Armstrong is one who does - so, nyeahweh Chief Armstrong, and you can all read the articles below:


I was made aware of this particular article on one of the lists I belong to....The link to the Indian News site is at the end of the article itself...

Interior asks Congress for power to take Indian lands
Monday, July 18, 2005

The Bush administration is once again asking Congress for authority to take "unclaimed" Indian lands and to eliminate its trust responsibility to tens of thousands of individual Indians.

In a letter to the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, the Interior Department urged Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) to add provisions to a bill that is already on the Senate floor. Although the proposed changes were described as "technical," they would give the federal government powers that haven't been the subject of a hearing or prior public debate.

Matt Eames, Interior's director of Congressional affairs, said the department needs the ability to take lands that are owned by individual Indians who can't currently be located. Nearly 49,000 Indian beneficiaries, who are owed an estimated $73.9 million, would be affected.

"Under state law, a state may sell or auction off certain personal property that has not been claimed by an owner within a certain amount of time, usually within 5 years," the May 10 letter stated. "This is not the case with inactive Individual Indian Money accounts or real property interests."

Eames also proposed language to address two court cases -- including one that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court -- that favored individual Indians and their constitutionally protected property rights. He said the department needs authority to take highly fractionated lands from beneficiaries, albeit with compensation.

"The provision should provide that the escheat of those interests to the tribes involved a taking by the United States and should provide compensation to the heirs of those escheated interests," Eames told McCain.

The proposals came in the administration's official response to S.536, the Native American Omnibus Act of 2005. The bill was approved by McCain's committee on May 12 and could be scheduled for a Senate vote any time.

If added to the bill, the provisions would eliminate the federal government's responsibilities to tens of thousands of Indian beneficiaries throughout the country who either can't be located or who share ownership in highly fractionated pieces of land. Interior officials have said keeping track of these account holders is costing the department millions of dollars.

Over the years, several proposals have been floated in an attempt to close the accounts, an effort that former assistant secretary Neal McCaleb once described as "termination." Not surprisingly, Indian Country hasn't reacted positively.

In late 2002, the department proposed an unclaimed property act that was soundly rejected by tribal leaders who were participating in the task force on trust reform. Interior officials blamed the legislation's quick demise on the task force, saying tribal leaders prematurely shared the information with the plaintiffs in the Cobell v. Norton lawsuit and with the media.

But the department, tribes, Indian landowners and other stakeholders were able to come together and pass the American Indian Probate Reform Act. The bill, signed into law by President Bush in October 2004, encourages estate planning by individual Indians, establishes a uniform probate code and helps tribes consolidate fractionated lands.

Past efforts, however, have not met muster in the courts. In the Babbitt v. Youpee case, the Supreme Court ruled that Congress violated the property rights of about 18,000 individual Indians in the Great Plains and the Midwest by taking their lands without just compensation. The decision was issued in 1997 and the department is still trying to sort out the mess.

More recently, a federal judge has found another piece of legislation to be unconstitutional in the DuMarce v. Norton case. It affects members of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Tribe whose fractionated lands were taken without just compensation.

The relevant parts of the Interior Department's letter are as follows: The Department also suggests additional amendments be added to S. 536. ... We also recommend two new titles be added to the bill that would provide a technical correction to address the decisions in Youpee v. Babbitt and DuMarce v. Norton and give the Secretary the authority to address unclaimed property.

Youpee and Sisseton-Wahpeton A new title should be added to S. 536 that would provide a technical correction to address the decisions in Youpee v. Babbitt and DuMarce v. Norton. The United States Supreme Court in Youpee held the escheat provision of the Indian Land Consolidation Act as unconstitutional. In DuMarce, the District Court for the District of South Dakota found unconstitutional a statute under which any interest of less than two and a half acres would automatically escheat to the Sisseton Wahpeton Sioux Tribe. As a result of these two decisions, the Department is faced with having to revest interests that escheated under both statutes back to the rightful heir. We request that a new title be added declaring that any interest that escheated pursuant to these Acts be vested in the tribe to which they escheated unless they have been revested in the name of the heirs of the allottee by the Secretary since the escheatment. The provision should provide that the escheat of those interests to the tribes involved a taking by the United States and should provide compensation to the heirs of those escheated interests.

Unclaimed Property Under state law, a state may sell or auction off certain personal property that has not been claimed by an owner within a certain amount of time, usually within 5 years. This is not the case with inactive Individual Indian Money accounts or real property interests. Often times the whereabouts of account owners are unknown to the Department because account holders do not respond to our requests for address information and our repeated attempts to locate them have been unsuccessful. This may be because the small amount in their account does not make such effort worthwhile. However, the Department must account for every interest regardless of size and we do not have the authority to stop administering accounts where whereabouts of the owner are unknown. We must have the authority to close these small accounts and restore economic value to the assets if the owner does not claim their interest within a certain amount of time. If the owner does not come forward, the revenue generated from the interest should be held in a general holding account against which claims could be made in the future if the owner's whereabouts become known or used to further the fractionation program.

March 12, 2005
Tribe Lays Claim to 3,100 Square Miles of New York State, but It Will Settle for Less

The Onondaga Nation, an Indian tribe based in upstate New York, filed a lawsuit yesterday claiming that it owns 3,100 square miles of land stretching from the St. Lawrence Seaway to the Pennsylvania border and including Syracuse.

The tribe contends that the State of New York illegally acquired the land in a series of treaties between 1788 and 1822 and has asked the Federal District Court in Syracuse to declare that it still holds title to the land, which is now home to hundreds of thousands of people and includes all or part of 11 counties.

It is the largest Indian land claim ever filed in the state. The tribe said that it does not want all of that land, however, but that its principal intent is to gain leverage to clean up polluted sites in the land claim area.

The lawsuit names as defendants the State of New York, the City of Syracuse and Onondaga County, as well as five corporations that, the nation contends, have damaged the environment in the claim area.

Todd Alhart, a spokesman for Gov. George E. Pataki, said late yesterday that the governor's office had not yet received a copy of the claim. "We will take whatever steps may be necessary to protect the interests of property owners and taxpayers in central New York, the Southern Tier and the northern New York region," Mr. Alhart said.

Unlike other Indian tribes that have filed land claims against the state, the Onondaga Nation, which has about 1,500 members, is not seeking monetary damages or the right to operate casinos in New York. Instead, tribal representatives said, the Onondagas want a declaratory judgment saying the land, which they consider ancestral territory, was taken illegally.

They then hope to use such a ruling to force the cleanup of sites in the claim area, particularly Onondaga Lake, a federal Superfund site and one of the most contaminated bodies of water in the nation.

The Onondaga Nation has made the cleanup of the lake, which is 4.5 miles long and one mile wide, one of its priorities. The tribe has lived near the lake for centuries and regards it as sacred land.

Tribal representatives said yesterday that the nation would not sue individual property owners or try to evict them.

"The nation has said flat-out that individuals have nothing to worry about," said Dan Klotz, a spokesman for the nation. The Onondagas, he said, "will not waver from that."

Other pending Indian land claims in New York have not interfered with property transactions, experts on Indian law said.

"They don't plan to press for eviction as a remedy and I don't think there's ever been a court that has seriously considered eviction," said John Dossett, general counsel for the National Congress of American Indians, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group for tribal governments. "I think that homeowners can rest easy."

At the same time, however, tribal authorities said they were in the market for more land. The nation's reservation is an 11-square-mile parcel south of Syracuse. Joseph J. Heath, an attorney who represents the Onondaga Nation, said if the court rules in the tribe's favor, he expected that settlement talks with the state to follow, including discussions about expanding the nation's reservation and protecting ancestral burial grounds threatened by development.

Mr. Heath said the tribe would try to buy land only from "willing sellers" and the government.

Still, Mr. Heath and other tribal representatives emphasized that the tribe's main intent was to gain more influence over state environmental policy and push for environmental cleanups in their region. "They're sick of being ignored on environmental issues," Mr. Heath said.

The tribe's elders have discussed filing suit for more than 50 years, they said in interviews yesterday. But as the pollution in the lake increased - and their own population expanded - they felt compelled to take legal action.

Decades of industrial dumping left a layer of toxic sludge on the lake bottom and drove the federal government to place it on the Superfund list of toxic waste sites in 1994. Last November, state regulators announced a plan to require Honeywell International to conduct a $448 million cleanup of the lake, including extensive dredging of the lake bottom to remove much of the 165,000 pounds of mercury and other toxins that have collected there.

Honeywell is one of five companies named in the Onondaga lawsuit. It is responsible for the cleanup because in 1999 it merged with Allied Chemical, which owned a plant that was accused of being one of the lake's main polluters.

The Onondagas have called the cleanup plan inadequate and say the state was legally obligated to consult with the tribe's chiefs but did not.

Mr. Alhart, the governor's spokesman, rejected the nation's assertion that the state was being lax on the cleanup of Lake Onondaga or that it had ignored the nation.

The lawsuit also names four other companies that operate a gravel mine, limestone quarry and coal-burning power plant in the region. In the lawsuit, the Onondagas also named Clark Concrete Company and a subsidiary, Valley Realty Development, which own a gravel mine in Tully, N.Y.

The nation has accused the mine of polluting the Onondaga Creek, which runs into the lake. The nation also named Hanson Aggregates North America, the owners of a limestone quarry in DeWitt, and Trigen Syracuse Energy Corporation, a coal-burning power plant in Geddes.

Attempts made late yesterday to reach officials with those companies were unsuccessful.

Tribal representatives said yesterday that they were not seeking a casino as part of a settlement of the claim. Casinos are a central component of five Indian land claim settlement agreements that Gov. George Pataki announced in recent months.

Michelle York contributed reporting from the Onondaga Indian Reservation for this article.

Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

A Neglected Obligation
Monday, August 30, 2004; Page A22

HEALTH CARE for many Native Americans in this country sinks to Third World levels. According to a draft report by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, deaths from alcoholism are 770 percent more likely among Native Americans than the general population; from tuberculosis, 650 percent; and from diabetes, 420 percent. In some tribes, one in two people suffer from diabetes. The Indian Health Service, primary health care provider for more than 1.6 million members of federally recognized tribes, is so underfunded that it spends only $1,914 per patient per year, about half of what the government spends on prisoners ($3,803) and far below what is spent on the average American ($5,065). Funding is so low that to be transferred out of an IHS facility for specialized treatment a patient must be in danger of losing a life or limb.

The Bush administration and Congress could help, but they have been sitting for almost four years on a revamped Indian Health Care Improvement Act. The original bill, enacted in 1976, is the cornerstone law that directs health care resources to Native Americans; it expired in 2001. Congress has been appropriating money year to year since then, but the strategy for providing health care for Native Americans is in dire need of a wholesale update, which the neglected bill would provide. Developed by tribal leaders themselves for the first time, the legislation would authorize Congress, among other things, to help Indian reservations recruit health professionals and specialists, expand preventive and behavioral health programs -- an important step in helping to combat alcoholism -- and give tribes more say in decision making. But only after long delay did Tommy Thompson, secretary of health and human services, finally agree last month to make this act a priority and work with congressional staffers to iron out remaining issues. Mr. Thompson and Congress should be kept to their promise of passing this legislation before the end of this session.

As important as authorizing the act is making sure there's money to pay for these programs, and Congress has done an abysmal job at that. The administration says it would support an increase in funds to match medical inflation, but that would only lock in the present inadequacies; Sen. Thomas A. Daschle (D-S.D.) has proposed a more substantial and appropriate increase. The federal government is bound by treaty to provide for Indian health, and it is failing. This is an obligation the nation has shirked for too long.


2004 The Washington Post Company




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This page added to site August 30, 2004 and updated July 19, 2005