Regulatory Updates

The Land-Into-Trust Backlog

Steve Cadue
Steve Cadue

Steve Cadue, Tribal Chairman
Kickapoo Tribe in Kansas

One of the notable guest speakers at the recent National Indian Gaming Association's 2007 Tradeshow and Convention was Carl Artman, Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs, U S. Department of the Interior. Assistant Secretary Artman is an appointee of President Bush and is the highest level administration official entrusted with trust responsibility for Indian tribes. Artman, a member of the Oneida Nation, is an attorney and worked for the Oneida Nation as its chief counsel and most recently served as the associate solicitor for Indian affairs at the U.S. Department of the Interior. It should be noted that he is filling a position that has has been vacant for 2 years. This 2 year vacancy, the highest level Indian trust responsibility position in the federal government denotes a lack of caring for federal services to Indian tribes. Federal Indian trust responsibility via leaving critical positions vacant is a dereliction of duty. Albeit a breach of trust in a timely appointment to a key position we are pleased to have Carl Artman, an experienced and professionally qualified Native American appointed to the position of Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs.

In Artman's speech to the NIGA convened general convention he spoke of several issues and highlighted a priority of the land-into-trust issue including the matter of application backlog. The Bureau of Indian Affairs is responsible for reviewing land-into-trust applications with many of the applications tied to Indian tribal casinos. Upon conclusion of Artman's speech, a question and answer forum was provided to the NIGA delegates. The issue I stated to Artman was that one serious reason for the application backlog was due to the success of Indian gaming. His response was that he couldn't disagree with my statement but also his agency was short of staff to timely review the applications. However, I also pointed out to him that many of the land-into-trust applications had nothing to do with Indian casinos. In the case of the Kickapoo Tribe, our applications are for the purpose of increasing our tribal cropland, grazing land, housing development and non-gaming economic development. But due to the political backlash against the successful Indian tribal gaming ventures all applications are systematically and bureaucratically delayed.

Artman will not provide a time frame for resolution of the backlog of applications probably due to the fact that he has no control over the process. It has been our experience that the land-into-trust application process is controlled by the Department of Interior Solicitor's office. According to Artman's
predecessor, Assistant Secretary Dave Andersen, the Assistant Secreatary's office had no power. This is the critical issue that needs to be addressed - the power and the authority of the office of the Assistant Secretary. We already noticed that the long overdue filling of the vacant Assistant Secretary's position was not a priority.

Each of our tribal leaders need to write and call our respective Congressional representatives and request a fair and timely resolution of the land-into-trust application backlog. Why, how and who is making the land-into-trust decisions? Federal trust responsibility to Indian tribes should not remain backlogged.

Steve Cadue is Chairman of the Kickapoo Tribe in Kansas. He can be reached by calling (785) 486-2131 or email stcadue@ipath-finder.com