The land that comprises “Indian country” holds a wealth of natural resources that are important to both the economic growth and culture of Native Americans. Without proper oversight and efficient use, the benefits that could be gained by using these natural resources are often lost or neglected. The management of Native American lands should be handled with great care. In order to optimize the various benefits of farming, land leasing, development and other economic opportunities.
Native Americans and their ensuing land rights have had a long and tumultuous history with the U.S. government, resulting in overall decreased land ownership for Native Americans. The General Allotment Act of 1887 authorized the U.S. government to divide Native American tribal land into allotments for Native American individuals and families. This division of ownership, or fractionation, over generations has diminished the utilization and economic benefit of the land. In some cases, a large majority of landowners receive $25 or less in land-related income. However, there is a wealth of resources available on Native American lands that can be tapped to increase the economic welfare and cultural development of those that own the land, if only the issue of fractional land ownership can be overcome.
The U.S. Department of the Interior established a Land Buy-Back Program for Tribal Nations on December 17, 2012 that helps address the issue of fractional land ownership in tribal communities. The program has provided $1.9 billion in funding for tribes to buy the divided land interests from willing individual owners at fair market value, consolidating sizable amounts of land to tribal trust ownership. This consolidation has led to financial gains for individual tribal landowners and helped tribal nations benefit the reservation community by executing conservation programs and economic development projects for housing, community water supply, and cultural renewal.
Through November 15, 2015, over 1,480,937 acres have been purchased on tribal lands throughout the U.S., affecting 31,302 individuals. Click here to review the official 2015 Status Report on the Buy-Back Program released earlier this month.
With these new opportunities for tribal nations to increase land ownership, a significant need exists for tribes to efficiently manage new and existing land assets. The Tribal D™ TribeVue™ software system incorporates land management and tracking methodologies for use by tribal land departments in order to maximize economic and cultural development.
In the TribeVue – Land module, each landowner can be tracked and each allotment is identified with relevant attributes including owner, total acres, soil samples, farm-able and non-farmable acres, and more. Further, the related allotment GIS files, and other documents, can be stored and launched on demand. In TribeVue Leases, the tribe has a resource to manage lessees, lease expiration dates, and lease payments/revenue. For tribes that manage ranges, each range unit is tracked in TribeVue, including the livestock on each unit, along with the appropriate grazing and trespass permits.
For more information on any of TribeVue’s versatile software application models, please go to tribal-d.com. Tribal D’s mission is to help tribal governments effectively integrate, manage and track critical aspects of Native American tribal governance so self-determination objectives can be met.