Congressmen introduce laws that Indian leaders say will bring better land management

Friday, October 13th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- Two members of Oklahoma's Congressional delegation have introduced legislation that state Indian leaders say will help their people better manage individually allotted Indian land.

The identical bills, introduced by Rep. Wes Watkins and Sen. Jim Inhofe, would reform federal laws that officials of the Five Tribes claim unfairly discriminate against them.

"It would be the most significant legislation passed for the Five Tribes in over 50 years," Cherokee Nation Chief Chad Smith said in a news release Thursday.

Currently, tribal members who own restricted land must hire their own attorneys to pass a deed on the land, which is often of little value, said David Mullon, associated general counsel of the Cherokee Nation.

Mullon said this process is complicated and expensive, making management of thousands of acres of Indian land in eastern Oklahoma difficult or virtually impossible.

The proposals by Watkins and Inhofe would bring laws regarding Oklahoma Indian lands in line with those of other states.

"In other parts of the country, Indian probating and transferring Indian trust allotments are handled administratively by the Bureau of Indian Affairs at no cost to the Indian whatsoever," Susan Work, Muskogee Nation Attorney General, said.

"The current system is totally unfair to the citizens of the Five Tribes who own restricted land."