|BACK TO HOME PAGE||BACK TO LEARNING LONGHOUSE||BACK||BLOOD QUANTUM||ENVIRONMENT||GAMBLING||INDIAN ARTS & CRAFTS ACT||LAWS/TAXES||PASSPORTS||REPATRIATION|
Land is of great spiritual and cultural significance to Native Americans. Many Native communities continue to rely on the land for subsistence through hunting, fishing, gathering, and agriculture. Most importantly, Native lands are vital to maintaining sovereignty. There is an established belief that Indians possess an inherent right to land that they occupied before the formation of the United States. Native nations hold over 50 million acres of land, approximately 2% of the United States. The largest reservation is the Navajo Nation, which is as large as West Virginia. Some reservations are as small as a few acres, and some tribes hold no land at all. The federal government and the tribes have the ability to acquire additional land in trust. Most often this land is purchased by the tribe or acquired from federal surplus lands. Trust status can be conferred only by the Secretary of Interior or the U.S. Congress by statute. However, the Secretary must take into consideration the impact on state and local governments of the removal of land from the tax rolls. State and local governments also have the right to appeal these decisions. The ability of the Department of Interior to take land into trust was created in the 1934 Indian Reorganization Act (IRA) to begin to compensate for unjust takings of tribal lands. Prior to 1934 the US Government took over 90 million acres from Native nations without compensation. Since the enactment of the IRA, about 9 million acres has been returned to trust status. Some Native nations have purchased additional lands with revenues acquired from gaming.
During the 19th century many fraudulent treaties were created. In 1855 the Court of Claims allowed redress for perceived wrongs in land deals, however, the law excluded Indian nations until 1863. Very few claims succeeded until 1946 when Congress created the Indian Claims Commission. The ICC only rules on claims against the Federal government. For Iroquois nations, many of the early treaties and land grants were created by the state and not the federal government.
Iroquois land claims before 1988 include the following:
Oneida 1970 – filed a pre-1790 period claim for 5.5 million acres for a 50 mile wide piece of land from Watertown to the Pennsylvania border.
Oneida 1970 – filed a post-1790 period claim for 250,000 acres in Oneida and Madison counties.
Cayuga 1980 – filed a claim for 64,000 acres at the north end of Cayuga Lake.
Mohawk 1982 – filed a claim for 10,500 acres adjoining Akwesasne.
Seneca 1985 – filed a claim for 50 acres of state owned land in Allegany and Cattaraugus counties.
“Iroquois Land Claims” 1988, ed. by Christopher Vecsey and William A. Starna