Fourth Part of Billings Gazette Special Report — Tribal Economies

From the Billings Gazette:

The Crow Tribe recently signed an innovative agreement with Montana and the federal government that will make it easier for banks to offer secured loans on the reservation. Essentially, it provides for seizure of personal property used as collateral when a loan is in default. (It does not apply to land held in trust for the tribe or its members.)

In 2004, the Crow Tribe adopted The Crow Finance Protection and Procedures Act, which makes it possible for banks to foreclose on trust property within the reservation. The catch is that at the foreclosure sale, the land can be sold only to the Crow Tribe or to a member of the tribe. If no eligible bidder can meet the price, the lender gets the beneficial title to the property but must continue to try to sell it to a qualified Crow buyer.

Differences in state and tribal law do come with some complications, but they aren’t barriers, said Mike Eakin, who works in the Billings office of Montana Legal Services.

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Third Part of Billings Gazette Special Report on Tribal Sovereignty

From the Billings Gazette:

Despite court rulings that slice away at tribal sovereignty, Indian law specialist Tom Fredericks of Boulder, Colo., believes “tribal governments are stronger than ever.”

They have to be. Retreating federal budgets place ever more burden on Indian governments to provide basic services.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs for years has been turning more federal responsibilities over to the tribes, contracting with them to provide services such as law enforcement, education and social services on the reservations.

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Part II of Billings Gazette Special Report on Tribal Sovereignty

From the Billings Gazette (Part I is here):

Three days a week, a dozen or so defendants in criminal cases appear before a Crow Tribal Court judge.

They could be charged with anything from a traffic violation to murder, and they could be there for a five-minute guilty plea or a weeklong trial. It’s all in the mix of a court schedule that begins at 8 a.m. and sometimes stretches into the evening.

Last year, the court handled 3,410 criminal cases, 335 civil cases, plus an intensive drug court and juvenile proceedings for a total of more than 4,200 cases, according to Associate Justice Julie Yarlott. During most of that year, the court was operating with just two judges. A second associate judge position is in the process of being filled.

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Billings Gazette Special Report on Tribal Sovereignty

From the Billings Gazette:

When the last of the bison herds disappeared in the early 1880s, Indian nations on the Northern Plains were reduced to poverty.

In Montana, where there are no high-flying gambling operations and big population centers, economic conditions for American Indians have been slow to change. Unemployment is rampant, and business opportunities are scarce.

Through various acts of Congress, tribes are contracting with the federal government to provide essential services to their people. But federal funds, static for years, are shrinking. Tribes are taking on more responsibilities than ever for the welfare of their people and are pursuing economic opportunities to support their efforts.

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