ILTF provides grant funding to Indian nations to support various aspects of land recovery with a focus on reacquiring alienated federal lands. Returning lands to Indian ownership and control is important to ensure that Indian people have, at minimum, access to the financial and natural resources within their own reservations. ILTF supports a variety of initiatives to assist tribes in the development of plans to reacquire reservation lands, including land and natural resource management plans that identify the future use and benefits of recovered lands. These plans are critical as tribes negotiate for the transfer of federal, state and municipal lands to Indian ownership and control and seek loans to purchase lands.
Below are some examples of ILTF’s efforts to help return Indian Lands to Indian hands.
Kashia Recover Coastal Land
Image: The Kashia have recovered 700 acres of their traditional homeland to preserve for future generations.
Nearly 150 years after being forcibly removed from their ancestral homelands to an inland reservation, the Kashia Band of Pomo Indians in Sonoma County, Calif., once again have access to the Pacific Ocean. On June 15, 2016, the Tribe celebrated the recovery of nearly 700 acres, a milestone made possible with the help of the Indian Land Tenure Foundation (ILTF) and its affiliate, the Indian Land Capital Company (ILCC).
“This acquisition would not have been possible without the assistance of ILTF and ILCC,” said Kashia Tribal Chairman Reno Keoni Franklin. “Not only did they play a major financial role in our acquisition of the property, they also provided valuable advice and were a strong voice of empowerment for us when we doubted if we could complete the purchase.”
ILCC extended a loan to Kashia in 2015 to purchase the land north of San Francisco, which features redwood forest, towering coastal bluffs and spectacular waterfalls. The Tribe has established the Kashia Coastal Reserve, a protected open space and demonstration forest to educate and engage the public about the history and practices of the Kashia people.
Learn more about success stories made possible with financing from Indian Land Capital Company at ilcc.net.
Snoqualmie Restore Homeland
Image: Snoqualmie Falls
The Snoqualmie, the People of the Moon, have been slowly but steadily reclaiming their homelands over the past half century. Their story, one of tragic loss and a hard fought recovery, represents one of the greatest comebacks in Indian Country. The Snoqualmie, one of the many tribes who make up the larger group of Coast Salish peoples, have historically lived in the Puget Sound region of Washington. Since time immemorial, the Snoqualmie hunted deer, elk, and other game animals, fished for salmon, and gathered berries and wild plants for food and medicinal purpose in the region. Snoqualmie Falls has always been at the center of the Tribe’s spiritual traditions and is regarded by the Tribe as its birthplace. At the time it signed the Point Elliot Treaty in 1855, which ceded their lands to the U.S. government, the Tribe was one of the largest in the Puget Sound region, numbering around 4,000 members.
The Tribe had been promised by the government that it would one day receive its own reservation but that promise, like so many others, was never kept. Many Snoqualmie stayed in the area, but some moved to other reservations in the Sound. In 1953, the Tribe suffered a major blow when it lost federal recognition due to a new federal policy that limited recognition to tribes that had reservations. Finding themselves both landless and without the resources to support their tribal members, many of whom were living in poverty, the Snoqualmie began the arduous process of rebuilding their nation and land base.
In 1999, after 46 years of petitioning, the Snoqualmie received re-recognition based on the evidence that they had maintained a continuous community from historical times to the present and in 2006 the Tribe received 55 acres for its initial reservation. They have since built a casino, the profits from which have allowed them to provide their 650 tribal members with basic services, improved housing conditions and new employment opportunities. In October 2006, ILTF made a $20,000 grant to the Snoqualmie Tribe to fund a strategic land planning training for tribal leaders and staff. The resulting document, “Where We Want to Be,” has been used by the Tribe to help it develop its larger, long-term vision and strategic plan for land recovery. In 2007, the ILTF-affiliated Indian Land Capital Company made a $1.2 million loan to the Tribe toward the purchase of 56 acres of land for healthcare, housing, tribal offices and other community purposes.
The Snoqualmie have also been been strengthening their cultural and spiritual ties to their homelands. In 2008 ILTF made a grant to the Tribe to produce an educational DVD of recorded interviews with tribal elders relating the history, culture and spiritual beliefs of the Tribe which has been used to educate tribal members about the places sacred to the Tribe and their historical and cultural importance.
Pine Ridge Landowners Project
ILTF’s land recovery efforts can take many forms such as the innovative landowners project on the Pine Ridge Reservation in southwestern South Dakota. Funded in part by ILTF, the project enabled Pine Ridge landowners to learn more about the lands they own and about how they can use these lands to benefit themselves and their communities.
The Pine Ridge Reservation lost more than one-third of its land base as a result of the General Allotment Act when Indian ownership on the reservation went from 2.7 million acres to 1.7 million acres. Ownership of the remaining lands is now highly fractionated, making it almost impossible for landowners to gain the majority consent necessary to use the land for homesites, development or agriculture. In 2007 and 2008, ILTF awarded grants to Village Earth, a nonprofit focused on sustainable community development, to address the problem of fractionation on Pine Ridge. Working with Village Earth, Pine Ridge tribal members volunteered to lead an effort that encourages landowners to take control of their own lands. The project helped to build the capacity of traditional Lakota tiospayes (family groups) to recover, restore and manage the remaining land base.
To facilitate land use decision-making, Village Earth developed the “Pine Ridge Reservation Allottee Land-Planning Map Book,” which includes basic information about land use planning, as well as GIS maps of the entire reservation that tribal members can use to locate the lands they own. Community meetings and workshops were held throughout the reservation to inform tribal members about the project and encourage them to learn more about their rights and options as landowners.
Watch the video Village Earth produced, which provides an excellent historical account of land loss on the reservation and includes interviews with many of the project participants.
Coos Bay Tribes' Sacred Sites
In 2008, the Confederated Tribes of the Coos, Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw Indians recovered 24 acres of their homelands on the Oregon coast, including Gregory Point and Chief’s Island, which contain the site of a historic village and a tribal cemetery. While 24 acres may not seem significant to some, the Tribes had lost their entire land base in 1956 when their federal recognition was terminated. It was not until 1984 that the Tribes regained federal recognition and started to slowly piece their homelands back together. The recent recovery of these culturally significant lands represents a major victory for the Tribes.
ILTF awarded the Tribes a $171,530 grant in 2003 to document significant cultural and sacred sites within the Siuslaw National Forest and to use this research to create public awareness about the Tribes’ historical and cultural ties to the land to assist in their land recovery efforts. Now tribal members are able to pay respects to their ancestors and perform traditional ceremonies on the recovered homelands.