Culture

6 Things You Should Know About GMOs

Written by at September 14, 2017

Genetically engineered organisms, or “GMOs,” have been around since 1996, but how dangerous are they? And how do they impact tribal food sovereignty?

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Indian Land Capital Co. helps tribes reclaim ancestral land

Written by at September 14, 2017

An unusual finance company based in the St. Paul suburb of Little Canada is playing a big role in helping tribes repurchase ancestral lands that should never have been sold or taken away.

The Indian Land Capital Co.  (ILCC) is legally a for-profit venture owned by two nonprofit organizations, the Indian Land Tenure Foundation in Little Canada and the Native American Community Development Corp. of Browning, Mont.

There are a variety of legal reasons why the ILCC is incorporated that way, said Rjay Brunkow, chief executive officer. But mostly, it allows ILCC to work with commercial banks and other lenders to allow creative financing packages for tribes that aren’t secured by land collateral.

“This has always been a problem for sovereign nations,” Brunkow said. “Lenders always want collateral supporting the loan. It takes some ‘getting used to’ for banks to recognize the full faith and credit (pledge) of sovereign nations.”

Founded in 2005, ILCC has helped tribes finance 17 land acquisition projects. The purchases have been in a dozen states but California is a major client base for ILCC activity. That comes from California’s large number of small Rancherias (reservations) and California Natives’ peculiar experiences with federal laws that disbanded the tribes and later restored federal recognition. 

Some ILCC loan have been small purchases of a few acres within reservation boundaries or a nearby mountain that has cultural importance but no economic value to a tribe. Others have been large purchases such as the 22,237 acres of timberland in 2011 that doubled the size of the Yurok Tribe at Klamath, Calif.

Land repurchases to date are important both economically and culturally but are a mere pittance of the 90 million acres pulled away legally and illegally from sovereign tribes, Brunkow said.

The most recent ILCC financed land purchase was two months ago when the Pinoleville Pomo Nation at Ukiah, Calif., acquired 9.3 acres of its original Rancheria land with a $2.7 million loan.  

“We couldn’t have done this without Rjay’s and the land company’s help,” said Leona Williams, the tribal chairperson.

The reacquired land was split between 8.8 acres of commercial property and 3.5 acres that Williams described as “cultural heritage land.”

All of the property, however, is significant for the Pinoleville Pomo citizens and for members of 16 other Rancherias in California, she said.

Part of the land formerly belong to Tillie Hardwick, a tribal member who challenged a 1958 federal law that resulted in terminating the California Rancherias in 1966. In winning that 1979 case, tribal status was returned to the Rancherias and their members regained federal recognition as American Indians.

“We really wanted to save this land but we didn’t have the means,” Williams said. “Then, an attorney we knew from Colorado suggested we find out if that group (ILCC) in Minnesota could help. It seemed to be too good to be true, but it was true.”

Small and less economically successful tribal nations like the Pinoleville Pomo make the primary client base for ILCC financing and originated loans with other partners. The Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe and the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community “really don’t need our help,” he said, and they have all the internal expertise they need to work financing and business ventures.

Meanwhile, Brunkow said the capital company is gaining access to participating lenders with each passing land deal. The track record with tribes is what does it.

“We’ve never had a tribal client default on a loan,” he said.

That would impress bankers. Brunkow would know.

Brunkow, a member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa in North Dakota, is a former investment banker specializing in Indian Country business for Wells Fargo. He has a business economics degree from South Dakota State University and a law degree from the University of Minnesota.

Before joining ILCC two years ago, Brunkow had previously served as solicitor general for the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe and as chief legal counsel for the Turtle Mountain Band.

One reason for the success of ILCC’s loans is that Brunkow and his predecessors serve as the loan originators when bringing other participants in on the loans. “When we know Indian Country, we know what will be done with the land and we know the politics, the culture of a tribe, that tells us the tribe will follow through on obligations,” he said.

That isn’t significantly different from other banking and lending practices. “What we are looking for is stability,” he added.

ILCC is housed at the Indian Land Tenure Foundation office in Little Canada. It also gets staff help from the parent organization.

While the Foundation, with its 76 percent stake in the company, and its Native American Community Development Corp. partner could be taking profits out of the for-profit lending institution, it doesn’t. And it won’t, explains Chris Stainbrook (Oglala Lakota), president of the Foundation and board chair for ILCC.

“ILCC was formed as a for-profit company to demonstrate to outside lenders that tribes are good credit risks and full-faith-in-credit lending to the tribes could work. It was not formed for the two non-profit owners to be supported by ILCC profits,” he said.

“ILTF and NACDC will not take a single nickel out of ILCC until the 90 million acres of lost reservation lands are returned to Indian ownership, management and control,” he added.

That shows the magnitude of the work remaining for the capital company and its parents.

More information about the Indian Land Capital Company can be found at ilcc.net (ilcc.net) ; Indian Land Tenure Foundation at iltf.org (iltf.org) , and Native American Community Development Corp. at nadc-nabn.org (nadc-nabn.org) .    

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Schaghticoke Tribal Nation’s $610 Million Lawsuit Against CT Inches Forward

Written by at September 4, 2017

The Schaghticoke Tribal Nation alleges that the State of Connecticut sold off its land without paying; it’s suing for $610 million.

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Schaghticoke Tribal Nation’s $610 Million Lawsuit Against CT Inches Forward

Written by at September 4, 2017

The Schaghticoke Tribal Nation alleges that the State of Connecticut sold off its land without paying; it’s suing for $610 million.

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Keith Harper on Obama, Trump and Global Human Rights

Written by at September 4, 2017

Attorney and Cherokee citizen Keith Harper, former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Human Rights Council, opens up about global issues.

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The Week That Was: The Big Stories in Indian Country, September 3, 2017

Written by at September 3, 2017

Savannah Greywind, Freedmen and heinous Hurricane Harvey predominated during the Week That Was in Indian country, September 3, 2017.

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White Supremacy (‘Ascendancy’) Is the Basis of US Federal Indian Law

Written by at September 3, 2017

White Supremacy (‘Ascendancy’) Is the Basis of US Federal Indian Law

As long as we keep calling an idea system of domination ‘the law,’ we will continue to be controlled and dominated by the system of white supremacy.

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Faith, Family, Fiesta Pan-Indian Culture

Written by at September 3, 2017

Pan-Indian culture thrives on a shared heritage of endurance, success, and salvation for all Natives who choose to embrace it.

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Examining Interior’s Changes to Trust Land Buy-Back Program

Written by at September 3, 2017

A new formula prioritizes potential value of the land to tribal economic development rather than simple fractionation reduction in the Land Buy-Back Program.

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Agents For Change: Future Belongs to Native American Youth

Written by at September 3, 2017

Native American youth prove they are agents of change with their ideas for social change; some for the environment, others for infrastructure and public health.

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Linking Arms, Marching Forward: Cherokee Nation Accepts Ruling on Freedmen

Written by at September 1, 2017

The Cherokee Nation, in accepting a court ruling on the Freedmen, honors a treaty and starts a new chapter, moving beyond a centuries-old slave narrative.

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Choctaw Nation: Tribal Constitutional Convention Seeks Separation of Powers

Written by at September 1, 2017

Kalyn Free, well-known Democratic tribal activist, is leading a revolution for a the separation of powers within her beloved Choctaw Nation.

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Government Reservation Mortgages Pass $600 Million in Finance, 5,000 Loans

Written by at September 1, 2017

The most successful Indian mortgages program to date has been the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Section 184 loan.

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Fond du Lac Bridges the Digital Divide

Written by at August 31, 2017

The Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa are providing essential high-speed internet access to 900 homes on the reservation by fall 2018.

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Muscogee, Cherokee and Quapaw Send Teams to Help With Hurricane Harvey

Written by at August 30, 2017

At least three American Indian tribes in Oklahoma have sent representatives to the Houston area to help with Hurricane Harvey relief efforts.

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IHS Leadership Fails to Explain Budget Needs

Written by at August 30, 2017

If there is a poster child in Indian country for All that can go wrong will go wrong, it is IHS, with the BIE or BIA running a close second.

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Yupik Teen Hunter Receives Death Threats

Written by at August 30, 2017

Yupik Teen Hunter Receives Death Threats

A 16-year-old Yupik hunter received death threats after Sea Shepard’s Paul Watson posted an angry rant on Facebook targeting the teen.

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The Power of Oceti Sakowin Women

Written by at August 30, 2017

Oceti Sakowin women have always occupied esteemed roles in their communities, to this day they continue to be committed to their people, the land, their relatives, and traditions.

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Zinke Recommends Reducing Bears Ears

Written by at August 29, 2017

Tribes supporting Bears Ears National Monument plan to sue over U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s expected recommendations to reduce its size.

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Why Is Climate Change’s 2 Degrees Celsius of Warming Limit so Important?

Written by at August 29, 2017

Perhaps the most powerful aspect about Climate Change’s 2°C threshold is not its scientific veracity, but its simplicity as an organizing principle

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Explore the Legacy of Pocahontas at Jamestown Settlement

Written by at August 28, 2017

“Pocahontas Imagined” is an art exhibit currently on display at the Jamestown Settlement in Virginia that immerses visitors in the life of Pocahontas.

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Water Protector, Tara Houska, Bestowed Good Housekeeping’s Awesome Women of 2017 Award

Written by at August 28, 2017

Tara Houska, a tribal rights attorney and former Native advisor to Bernie Sanders, was named one of Good Housekeeping’s Awesome Women of 2017.

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Creek File Lawsuit Claiming Concurrent Jurisdiction With Casino in Limbo

Written by at August 28, 2017

Creek tribal town files a lawsuit as the tribal town continues to a second attempt to launch a casino near one of Oklahoma’s largest cities.

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The Week That Was: The Big Stories in Indian Country, August 27, 2017

Written by at August 27, 2017

Pardoning a racist, the search for a missing mother, and a nationally recognized young Navajo poet—all this and more in Indian country August 27.

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Plutocracy in the US and Egalitarian Indian Nations

Written by at August 27, 2017

While many tribal communities distribute wealth evenly, leading to a more egalitarian government, the United States slides more and more into a plutocracy, controlled by the wealthy.

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