Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Mismanagement of Native American Land?

Mismanagement of Native American Land?


This story begins more than 200 years ago when the United States government began offering land on the Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation to Native Americans. When the land started to run out, it was offered on the public domain, in some cases, hundreds of miles away stretching into parts of Montana.

"We haven`t seen our land, we don`t know what`s on our land, and we don`t really know what`s happening to our land,” says Jessie Cree, an allottee landowner.

Some families have never laid eyes on their land and a group called the Turtle Mountain Allottee Association worries there`s oil being extracted off the land and some of the poorest people on the reservation are not getting paid for it.

"They`re told that there`s no activity going on on their land, but we`re getting satellite views of the people`s land and it`s showing us something different,” says Delvin Cree of the Turtle Mountain Allottee Association.

"They tell us, `Keep this very quiet.` Why? I don`t know. That`s what we asked them, why?" says Jesse Peltier of the association.

The association blames the Bureau of Indian Affairs and The Office of Trustees for not properly taking care of landowners.

"There is oil and gas activity on their land and the Office of Trustees is saying something different,” says Delvin Cree.

"I haven`t seen any what you would call misuse of positions or property,” says Richard Lafrombois of the Office of Trustees in Belcourt, North Dakota.

Lafrombois says it`s nearly impossible for someone to take oil off land without going through the proper channels and if they are, it`s his job to get the money to those who own it. The Office of Trustees is only 4 years old. It was formed by the government after problems with the BIA. Lafrombois handles the financial side and for the past 4 years has been talking to landowners trying, in his words, to get his arms around this enormous issue. One of those issues is called fracturization. It`s when a lot people own the same piece of land. In one case a 160 acre plot is owned by 1,800 people.

"It was quote `The Indian way of doing things` -- to share and share alike so when you take 4 or 5 generations of share and share alike, it`s quite a lengthy process,” says Lafrombois.

"We are the poorest people on Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation, and we should be the richest,” says Delvin Cree.

"Making assertions or allegations that are unfounded tend to sour the grapes as they say,” says Lafrombois.

The Turtle Mountain Allottee Association says they`ve had little support from their tribal council. KMOT tried to contact Tribal Chairman David Brien for this story, but phone calls and emails were not returned.

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