Monday, September 10, 2007

More T.E.D. Mumblings

Here's a classic argument in favor of eliminating Indian trust, written up in todays

Talk to Terry Anderson of the Property and Environment Research Center in Bozeman, Mont., and you get to a fundamental truth. Friends from out of the country wanted to visit a reservation. He warned them they would encounter poverty, but instead they encountered an Indian rancher who was prosperous and distinct from many in his tribe. He owned his property. While some land on reservations is privately held, most is held in either individual or tribal trust by the BIA with the rationale that Indians need protection from outsiders. As Anderson discovered, the privately held land is far more productive than the trust land. When I asked him why, he had a short answer: "Incentives matter." Indians, he said, have traditions of private property, as in color-coding arrows to show who had rights to a slain buffalo."

I've seen something like this before: (1) Indians are poor; (2) But Indians own tons of valuable land; (3) why is this?; (4) the Indians don't really own the land -- the United States or an Indian tribes does; and (5) if Indians owned the land or had complete control of the land, they'd be rich like the rancher described above.

It's a simple and compelling argument, but I don't think it applies in very many circumstances. Maybe in some of the ranching/grazing communities. And it seems way too simple and easy -- like Termination seemed simple and easy.


At November 05, 2007 6:21 PM, Blogger Bethany Berger said...

The incentives argument is clearly too simplistic (and actually just silly, because tribal lessees get the benefits of their management of the land), but there is one important advantage to fee land on reservations: because it's encumbrable, it's much easier to get a mortgage to finance business ventures on the land. The BIA and Fannie Mae and some tribes are working to make financing easier on trust land, but some familiar factors, like the miserable state of title records for the land, still stand in the way.

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