December 28th, 2009
The goal of most American Indian tribes is to use whatever business profits and funds they can acquire to rebuy their land base. Governments need defined territories to govern if they are to exercise real sovereign powers.
A recent press report shows that when tribes can squeeze some extra dollars from what are needed to address critical issues and problems, they often use these funds to buy land.
The newspaper article says in part: “Native American tribes tired of waiting for the U.S. government to honor centuries-old treaties are buying back land where their ancestors lived and putting it in federal trust.
Native Americans say the purchases will help protect their culture and way of life by preserving burial grounds and areas where sacred rituals are held. They also provide land for farming, timber and other efforts to make the tribes self-sustaining.
Tribes put more than 840,000 acres _ or roughly the equivalent of the state of Rhode Island _ into trust from 1998 to 2007. . . .
Three tribes have bought land around Bear Butte in South Dakota’s Black Hills to keep it from developers eager to cater to the bikers who roar into Sturgis every year for a raucous road rally. About 17 tribes from the Dakotas, Nebraska, Wyoming, Montana and Oklahoma still use the mountain for religious ceremonies. . . .
Other members of the Rosebud Sioux, such as president Rodney Bordeaux, believe the tribes shouldn’t have to buy the land back because it was illegally taken. But they also recognize that without such purchases, the land won’t be protected. . . .
Thirty to 40 tribes are making enough money from casinos to buy back land, but they also have to put money into social programs, education and health care for their members, said Robert J. Miller, a professor at the Lewis & Clark Law School in Portland, Ore., who specializes in tribal issues.
“Tribes just have so many things on their plate,” he said.”