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On Wisconsin Public Radio, Naomi Schaefer Riley explains how current federal policies prevent American Indians from exercising their property rights.
Because Indian reservation lands are held in trust by the federal government, American Indians do not technically own the land they live on. They cannot buy or sell land themselves without the approval of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, they cannot get a mortgage from a bank, and they do not have equity to start a business, explains Riley.
Native Americans can try to exchange the land among themselves, but as one tribal legislator I spoke with on the Crow Reservation said to me “we are the most over-regulated race on earth”. There over 9,000 bureaucrats at the Bureau of Indian Affairs… These bureaucrats are intervening in every aspect of their lives from the purchase of land, to food stamps, to housing policy, to health services. There is very little autonomy.
Even the language, using the phrase “in trust” is offensive. The only people that we legally hold things in trust for are children and the mentally incompetent. It is shameful that in the 21st century that this is how we think about our Indian policy.
Listen to the full interview here.
For more from Naomi Schaefer Riley, read The New Trail of Tears: How Washington Is Destroying American Indians.