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Indian Land Rights Essay Research Paper Tribal

Indian Land Rights Essay, Research Paper Tribal Affiliations The injustices that happened long ago are still not fixed and need to be, because they are visible everyday through the hardships these people face.

Indian Land Rights Essay, Research Paper

Tribal Affiliations

The injustices that happened long ago are still not fixed and need to be,

because they are visible everyday through the hardships these people face.

Introduction

Ever since Europeans discovered America Native Americans began losing their

land progressively for the next couple of hundred years following the settlement

of the first Europeans. What was once a country that was dominated by the

inhabitance of Native Americans, the United States is no longer the home it once

was. Native Americans during the past centuries have lost an enormous amount of

land and their rights to their property and not only till recently have

repercussions been taken. Native Americans are now fighting for their land that

they lost long ago in addition to water rights that many tribes need.

In this paper we?ll look at the some of the major acts that have affected

Indians and also the problems that some tribes face and how some tribes are

dealing with their land rights.

The General Allotment Act

American Indians had considerably lost much of their land during the 17th and

18th centuries but not till the 19th century were their any real big acts of

congress that made the taking of Indian land legal. Indians before the 19th

century had been living on reservations but not till the mid to later 1800?s

was the government at the height of its power to allocate Indian land to white

settlers and place more Indians on reservations. One of the most influential

acts of Congress that rid Indians of their land is The General Allotment Act

also known as the Dawes Act. The Dawes Act did not affect Pueblo Indian tribes

as it did other tribes. (Andersen 1992:112-115)

The Dawes Act was signed into law on February 8, 1887 and contained five

basic provisions. (1) Indian reservations would be divided and each tribal

member would receive a grant of land consisting of 160 acres for each family

head, a grant of 80 acres for each single person over eighteen, and 40 acres for

each juvenile; (2) Indians would receive fee simple title to their individual

holdings, but the land were to be held in trust by the government for

twenty-five years during which time they could not be alienated; (3) The Indians

would be given four years to make their selections, after which time the

government would make their selection for them; (4) United Stated citizenship

would be conferred upon any Indian who maintained his allotment and adopted the

advantages of civilized life; and (5) un-allotted tracts of land would be

declared a surplus and sold by the government. (Lyden and Legters 1992: 86)

Significance of the Dawes Act

Of the five provisions that are in the Dawes Act the first and the last

provisions are the most important. The first provision divides the land up

between the Indians, which may seem like a good idea but what occurs is that by

limiting how much land each individual can receive the Indians are left with

less land than they originally had. Since there is excess land now that Indians

lost their land the last provision calls for the selling of surplus land. The

amount of surplus land that the Indians lost was about 62,000,000 acres from the

original 136,000,000 they once had. (Lyden and Legters 1992: 88)

This surplus land was then sold to homesteaders, but the fact is that the

homesteaders were given better land than the Indians who were left with land

that was not good for living or farming. (Lyden and Legters 1992: 89)

Due to the Dawes Act the Indians lost much of their land and the land that

they did possess was not very good.

Present Day Claims of Land

During the past 30 years Indians have began claiming ?their? land by the

masses. There are many tribes that have taken legal steps in order to acquire

the land that they lost long ago. For instance in congress there are many bills

being sponsored so that Indians may receive some of their land back which they

lost to numerous acts of congress and broken treaties. Some present day bills

that in congress are bills such as Senator Barbara Boxer?s California Indian

Land Transfer Act, which would transfer additional lands to Californian

reservations or

Termination Acts

During the Eisenhower administration policies were enacted to terminate

certain tribes. Terminating was a way for the federal government to assimilate

the Native Americans into the white person?s world. Not only was the purpose

of termination to assimilate Indians but also by terminating certain tribes the

government would not have to allocate money to help fund Native American

reservations. During Termination tribal authority was stripped from the control

of schools, public buildings and their authority.

Problems Faced by Tribes that were Terminated

The problems that tribes faced as a result of the Termination acts that some

tribes were faced with was that many tribes that were once receiving funding

from the government for schools and hospitals were not receiving funding

anymore. Tribes were not able to fund themselves and again Federal assistance

was needed. In addition many tribes that made money from having corporations

that were run by the government were put into the hands of the Indians who had

no experience in running a corporation. Eventually the corporation that was once

able to support the tribe couldn?t anymore because of the management. Most of

the times the corporations would have to be sold off to the whites. There were

also times when tribes were forced to liquidate their assets. When many Indians

liquidated their assets they had cash in their hands but they did not know how

to manage their money so many Indians soon found themselves with no money or

assets at all. The federal government?s main purpose for termination was to

assimilate the Indians and also try to help the Indians take care of themselves

so that government would not have to allocate as much money to them. However

termination did not lessen the allocation of money to the Indians because the

Indians could not survive on their own once they were terminated so they needed

Federal funding once again. Eventually the government stopped terminating tribes

and in fact those tribes that were once terminated are now recognized once

again. (Lyden and Legters 1992: 90-91)

Effects Upon the Menominee and Klamath Tribes

In 1953 the Menominee?s of Wisconsin were among the most prosperous tribes

in the United States with over 90 million dollars in financial assets, however

the Menominee?s did not remain prosperous for very long. Under the Menominee

Termination Act of 1954, the tribe was handed over complete responsibility for

managing the tribal paper mill, and for providing its members with social

services that were once provided by the government. Menominee Enterprises, Inc.

was established to run the mill and each tribal member had a share in the

corporation. The corporation did not last long due to the high cost of providing

tribal services, poor management decisions and the loss of the tribe?s tax

exemption. Soon the company had to sell of its assets to pay off its debt and

finally the enterprise collapsed, and banks, farms and lumber companies,

absorbed the Indian?s remaining resources. (Lyden and Legters 1992: 90)

Another group that was greatly affected by termination was the Klamath of

Oregon that had similar experiences to that of the Menominee following

termination of federal supervision. In August 13, 1954 the Klamath were

terminated from their relation to the federal government. The termination

dissolved the Klamath reservation and each Klamath received about $43,000. The

Klamath did receive money but there was no lasting benefit to the majority of

them because most of the Klamath spent their money of living a fancy lifestyle.

Within four years after receiving the money 40% of the Klamath had no money left

over. Due to the inability of the Klamath to manage their money they had little

left over. (Lyden and Legters 1992: 91)

Many tribes were terminated by the federal government but eventually the

government realized that termination was no a good policy. The government has

now gotten rid of termination and started recognizing those that were previously

terminated.

Alaska Natives Settlement Claims Act

In 1971 Congress passed the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. The act

mandated that modern profit-making corporations be established to receive cash

and land award totaling $962.5 million and approximately 44 million acres of

land. The 12 corporations that were founded became the tribes of Alaska. The

corporations are government established and Natives and a few white

professionals run the corporations. (Lyden and Legters 1992: 85-96)

Some of the problems that the natives have had are poor management,

institutional indifference and the lack of familiarity with white business

practices. Since 1991 Natives were able to sell their stocks in the corporations

and many have. A strong possibility is corporate takeover of the Indian

corporations. The Indians have the money and the resources but the fact is that

they do not know how to manage them very well. Eventually if the corporations

are not run the right way other companies will eventually buy out the Indians.

The Alaskan Natives may soon feel the way other tribes do if they are not

careful with what they have. (Lyden and Legters 1992: 85-96)

Nuclear Waste Storage

Over the past couple of years an increasing amount of Indian tribes have

thought about the prospect of storage of Nuclear Waste on reservations. Due to

the Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act of 1987 tribal sovereignty allows for

the storage of nuclear waste on reservations. Many Native American tribes are

not wealthy or have the necessities that they desire. With many Indian that are

without skills the only way for tribes to accumulate money is to use what

resources they do have. In this case the resource is land. By building a nuclear

waste facility on tribal land Indians will be able to acquire a great deal of

money. One such tribe that has made the decision to build a nuclear waste

storage facility is the Mescalero Apache Tribe. (Leonard)

Mescalero Apache Tribe

The Mescalero Apache Tribe lives in Southeastern New Mexico and they own a

popular resort, a ski resort, casino?s and they have 7,000 head of cattle.

Despite all of this the majority of the tribe lives under the poverty line, a

third of them are unemployed, they lack a school system and they suffer from

housing shortages. There are many complaints and worries about the decision of

the Mescalero?s to put nuclear waste storage facility on their lands but

nothing can be done about it. The decision to build the facility lies solely in

the hands of the tribe. (Leonard)

The Debate at Yucca Mountain Nevada

During the mid 1980?s the Department of Energy was searching for a site to

build a nuclear waste storage facility. The DOE decided that Yucca Mountain in

Nevada would be an appropriate site for building the storage facility. However

many Indian tribes claimed the Yucca mountain sacred land and did not want

anyone building there because it would desecrate their holy land. Yucca Mountain

though is not part of a reservation or property of any Indian tribe. A debate

spurned between the government and the Native American tribes over the issue of

building this facility. What emerged from this debate was a new way of dealing

with land that is sacred to Indians but not officially their property.

Eventually the DOE accepted that the facility would no be built at Yucca

mountain based on the fact that it was a cultural site. Due to this debate

Tribes are now able to stop any desecration of land if the Tribes are able to

provide evidence that the land has great cultural significance. (Lyden and

Legters 1992: 243-249)

Controversy over Water Rights

One of the largest controversies that Native Americans have besides problems

over land rights is the controversy over water rights. Water rights are very

important because they determine how much water a particular tribe may receive

for their land. The amount of water they receive helps determine how much of

their land can be irrigated and if they are going to get enough water to farm.

In the southwest water rights are a big problem because many areas have dams and

the water rights give the tribes the right to divert water to their land. In

addition there is much competition over water in the southwest and if a tribe

gets their water rights then it means that water will be appropriated to them

instead of to whites. If a tribe does obtain water rights many times they are

not able to use these rights because the tribes fail to have the right machinery

and tools. Currently there are many bills going through congress on the subject

of water rights. Till there is satisfaction in the Indian community Indians will

continue their fight for rights. (Anderson 168-169)

Conclusion

Over the past couple of centuries many injustices have been committed to the

Native Americans. Native Americans put their trust in us long ago but the

government broke that trust by taking what the Native Americans had. They are

finally fighting back for their rights and what they owned but the fight is

progressing slowly. No matter how much the Indians want their land back they

will never get everything back because you can?t go back into the past and

undo the wrong that?s been committed. It?s our job to do what we can to mend

the wounds that still bleed.1. Brophy, William A. and Aberle, Sophie D.

1966 The Indian University of Oklahoma Press, Oklahoma

2. Cook, Curtis and Lindau, Juan D

2000 Aboriginal Rights and Self Government,McGill-Queen?s University Press,

Montreal, Canada

3. Lyden, Fremont J. and Legters, Lyman H.

1992 Native Americans and Public Policy University of Pittsburgh Press,

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

4. Emma R. Gross

1989 Contemporary Federal Policy Toward American Indians Greenwood Press,

Westport, Connecticut.

5. Anderson, Terry L.

1992 Property Rights and Indian Economies Rowman & Littlefield Publishers

Inc. Lanham, Maryland

6. Mitchell, Donald and Rubenson, David

1996 Native American Affairs Publisher Not Stated

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