'It's not howling at the moon'

Cris Stainbrook, Koko Hufford, and LeRoy Fairbanks join the show to discuss efforts from tribes to buy back their lands. Plus deputy managing editor Jourdan Bennett-Begaye shares with us the sights and sounds from Washington D.C. days before the presidential inauguration.
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Highlights from around Indian Country

We have more on a U.S. Supreme court case that centers on tribes’ share of $8 billion. Also, Choctaw citizen Isabella Cornell made national waves with how she highlighted missing and murdered Indigenous women. Plus, details on Muscogee Creek citizen and New York Times Best Selling Author Cynthia Leitich Smith's brand new book. You'll find more details on these stories at the top of today's newscast.

Land is the greatest resource for tribal nations across the country. Some 56 million acres are held in trust by the federal government for tribes. That's about 2 percent of the country. While 90 million acres were taken by the U.S. between 1887 and 1934 tribes all over the country are reclaiming some of that land, lands that were lost. Joining us today are representatives from two tribes who are doing just that. Leroy Fairbanks from the Leech Lake band of Ojibwe in Minnesota and Koko Hufford from the Confederate tribes of the Umatilla Indian reservation in Oregon and Cris Stainbrook, president of the Indian land tenure foundation, who helps facilitate some of these land transfers.

Washington, D.C. is on high alert following the riot at the US Capitol last week. As preparations are being made to inaugurate the 46th president of the United States next week. We take a look around the fortress that’s now taking shape. Jourdan Bennett-Begaye is our deputy managing editor and she's based in Washington. She joins us to give us an idea of what it's like in D.C. as the nation prepares to welcome a new president and administration.

Some quotes from todays show

Koko Hufford:

"Umatilla has a multiple approach for land acquisition. First what we have done is that we've established it inherited code. Which has been adopted and approved at the BIA level. Which allows us to purchase from those that are not enrolled here. And this is something that was started in 1998 and then reestablished in 2008 with an amendment."

"And then what we do with the not only the inheritance code, Chris and the Indian land tenure foundation has been supportive, is that we do estate planning, will writing, gift deeds. And then what we have is the next component is we have a land acquisition strategy. Which, because we had progressive board of trustees members who thought ahead, leadership that thought ahead, we decided that because of our checkerboards situation, because of the Allotment ACT, that we needed to buy those parcels that we didn't own, not only by non-Indians, but Indians from other reservations."

Cris Stainbrook:

"There has been a major push over the last 20 years to really re-acquire land that was alienated particularly on reservation, but also the cultural sites. And we really saw that ramping up in the last few years, as the tribes have had more resources both from gaming and from the land buy-back program that Koko mentioned."

"Those lands get leased and those revenues come into the tribal coffers and so more land, more or capital available for acquiring land. The other thing we've seen is non-Indians beginning to take an interest in returning land to Indian people and the tribes. And we see various contributions of land, not always big tracks of land, but important tracks of land."

LeRoy Staples Fairbanks III:

"I was elected to office in 2012. And upon getting an office you kind of learn about some of the existing efforts that are going on, and I heard about this issue, and it just seemed like a no brainer of an issue that we needed to take up and prioritize. And so for the last eight years, it's been a rigorous effort of many in kind of complementing all the work that was done prior to, but it's called the Leech Lake Reservation Restoration ACT."

"And what it did was returned 11,760 acres from Chippewa National Forest is what the national forest we have on Leech Lake. So it was in the United States department of agriculture and it's transferring over to back to the department of Interior. And so it's just kind of reversing what was done in the early 1940s to mid 1950s."

Jourdan Bennett-Begaye

"The mood, it's funny because I was walking around in downtown D.C. yesterday, which is kinda where the White house is, and now security is being locked down. Roads are being closed and so there's tons of traffic, but even within the road closures there's not that many people walking in it. It's kinda quiet and it's kind of almost like a ghost town where the road closures are happening. 

And as you get closer to the White house, when I was walking around, you can see there's probably like a seven foot fence being put up, all around the White house. I mean, Lafayette park, which is behind the White house where a lot of tourists go to get a glimpse of the White house and that whole park is closed off."

Mark Trahant, Shoshone-Bannock, is editor of Indian Country Today. On Twitter: @TrahantReports Trahant is based in Phoenix.

Jourdan Bennett-Begaye, Diné, is the deputy managing editor for Indian Country Today based in Washington, D.C. Follow her on Twitter: @jourdanbb or email her at jbennett-begaye@indiancountrytoday.com. Bennett-Begaye’s Grey’s Anatomy obsession started while attending the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications.

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