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News, notes, and observations from the James River Valley in northern South Dakota with special attention to reviewing the performance of the media--old and new. E-Mail to

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Sisseton-Wahpeton starts land buy-back

While the Sioux nations hold out on a financial settlements for the Black Hills, they are taking advantage of the Cobell settlement to buy back reservation lands that were sold away, fractionating the reservations.   

The Buy-Back Program has currently purchased land to place into trust for tribes at Pine Ridge and Rosebud.   The Department of Interior announced sending more than $100 million in purchase offers to nearly 16,000 landowners with fractionated interests on Pine Ridge Reservation.

The most recent buy back efforts are on the eastern border of South Dakota.  Here is the Department announcement:


Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate of Lake  Traverse Reservation in North & South Dakota Join Latest Step in Nation-to-Nation Cooperation to Strengthen Tribal Sovereignty


WASHINGTON, DC – As part of President Obama’s commitment to help strengthen Native American communities, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell today announced the latest step in the implementation of the Land Buy-Back Program for Tribal Nations (Buy-Back Program), as the Department signed its next cooperative agreement, this time with the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate of the Lake Traverse Reservation located in northeastern South Dakota and in southeastern North Dakota.

This agreement provides resources to the tribal government to facilitate outreach and education, solicit interest from owners, and further support land research in the effort to consolidate fractionated lands for the beneficial uses of tribes. The Department expects to send offers to willing sellers with fractionated interests at the Lake Traverse Reservation later this year.

The Buy-Back Program was created to implement the land consolidation component of the Cobell Settlement, which provided $1.9 billion to purchase fractionated land interests from willing sellers and consolidate those interests across Indian Country. The Buy-Back Program allows interested individual owners to receive payments for voluntarily selling their land. Consolidated interests are immediately transferred to tribal governments where they stay in trust for uses benefiting the tribes and their members.

“We know that Nation-to-Nation cooperation and collaboration is the key to successfully implementing this historic opportunity to reduce fractionation and strengthen tribal sovereignty,” said Interior Secretary Sally Jewell. “We look forward to working with the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate to effectively reach landowners to communicate the importance of reducing fractionation, relay the advantages of consolidating their land for the beneficial uses of their tribe, and provide the resources available to them for more information.”

Interior holds about 56 million acres in trust for American Indians in more than 200,000 tracts. Of those, nearly 94,000 – on about 150 reservations – have multiple and in some cases numerous owners who each hold a fractional interest available for purchase by the Buy-Back Program. The fractionation of tribal lands over generations has locked away resources and prevented effective land-use decision making by tribes. Fractionation has made it increasingly difficult for tribes to manage this land for economic development and other uses.

The Buy-Back Program is now working to consolidate these fractionated lands and restore them to the tribe of jurisdiction, which helps make sure that Indian lands stay in trust. The tribe can then use this land to benefit its community – for example, to build homes, community centers or businesses, or for cultural or environmental preservation.

“The Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate of the Lake Traverse Reservation has been actively acquiring fractionated lands for over three decades in an effort to reduce fractionation on the reservation,” said Tribal Chairman Robert Shepherd. “The Cobell Land Buy-Back Program will further our efforts to acquire more fractionated lands, increase the tribal land base and significantly decrease further fractionation for our children and future generations. Our previous and continued efforts are made in the spirit of our inherent tribal sovereignty and as a means of self-determination.”

Approximately 90 percent of all of the fractionated lands available for purchase are in 40 of the 150 locations eligible to participate in the Buy-Back Program under the Cobell Settlement. The Program’s goal is to reach as many of these locations as possible. Since December of last year, the Program has already returned more than 30,000 acres to tribes.

Interior expects to enter into additional agreements in the coming months. Through an open solicitation from November 2013-March 2014, the Department received more than 50 letters of interest or cooperative agreement applications for participation in the Program. Outreach, mapping and mineral evaluations are already occurring at many locations.

Sellers receive fair market value for their land, in addition to a base payment of $75 per offer, regardless of the value of the land. All sales will also trigger contributions to the Cobell Education Scholarship Fund. Up to $60 million will go to this fund to provide scholarships to Native American students. These funds are in addition to purchase amounts paid to individual sellers, so contributions will not reduce the amount paid to landowners for their interests. The Scholarship Fund is administered by the American Indian College Fund in Denver, Colorado, with 20% going to the American Indian Graduate Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

There are a number of steps that tribal governments can take now to prepare for involvement in the Buy-Back Program, including increasing owner awareness and designating a tribal point of contact to engage with the Program. Details are online here.

Landowners with interests on the Lake Traverse Reservation can contact the Trust Beneficiary Call Center at (888) 678-6836 to get more information about the potential to sell land so that it can be returned to the tribe or to register their information. Additional information is available at:  

Friday, April 11, 2014

New Angus and old bullshit

White Oak Financial Advisers, the major lender to the bankrupt Northern Beef Packers that is attempting to redeem its financial loss by buying back the plant for pennies on the dollar, paid Brown County the back taxes owed on the plant, $1,090,859.   County officials say that the money will be used to make  payments, due in December, on Tax Increment Finance bonds approved by the county.  

White Oak also announced that it has changed the name of the company to New Angus.  In the current fad of meat marketing, it has become essential to have the breed Angus somewhere in the product name.  One of the successful branding ploys has been the promotion by the Angus breed association of its cattle.  In most supermarkets, their beef brand will have Angus somewhere in its name.   That prevalent use has more to do with the way the American public has been conditioned into a state of gullibility than with the quality of beef or what kind of animal it actually comes from.  So White Oak adopts New Angus, which leaves one to ponder what is, in fact, new. 

The status of the TIF bonds has never received mention in the bankruptcy proceedings or the news reports on the demise of Northern Beef Packers.  They are part of the devious tangle of finance that has beleaguered the beef plant from its first musterings in Huron, to its fleecing of investors and supporters in Flandreau, through its brief but agonizing flourish and eventual death in Aberdeen.  When the enterprise was ended in Huron, there were rumors that the plan was quashed because the original promoters, Ridgefield Farms,  ran afoul of the good will of the governor.  But it has been impossible to separate rumor from fact because of the clandestine circumstances under which the government and businesses are allowed to scheme and collude under the protection of South Dakota Codified Law.  South Dakota has a tradition of collusion and corruption between government and business that rivals post-Soviet Russia.  The prevailing attitude in South Dakota  regarding business is that if someone is making money from some arrangement, it is smart and good business—no matter how many people are oppressed and damaged. 

The announcement of the payment of back taxes was made with the incoherence and verbal confusion that has been typical of any information put out about the beef plant scheme. On one hand, the payment of back taxes was announced with statement that they would go toward making payments on the TIF bonds.   On the other hand, at the same time, the chair of the Brown County Commision is quoted as saying, “The county has not been and never will be liable to make TIF payments to bondholders…That money has to come from extra money collected as a result of TIF.”  (Aberdeen American News," The New Angus angle," April 5, 2014.)

Which leaves the reader asking, so why are the back taxes being used for payments on the TIF bonds?  And how does TIF generate extra money to pay bondholders?  Especially when the plant is bankrupt and closed?

And the financial incoherence goes on.  And on.  And on. 

Generally, when the news media reports the details of a corporate bankruptcy, it assembles a list showing:
  1. All the money owed by the company;
  2. All the money paid out by the company;
  3. All the money received by the company.

Lists of money received will categorize and list the sources of all money invested in an earned by the company.  But the records of the financing schemes for Northern Beef Packers are incomplete, missing or otherwise unavailable, and totally incoherent.  They follow the South Dakota Golden Rule of doing business:  if you are a business in South Dakota, you don’t have to be open or honest.  The only thing you have to give a shit about is gold and schemes for getting it. 

The news story covering the New Angus plans substantiates how government officials endorse and obey that Golden Rule.  White Oak has not announced what it plans to do with the plant, leaving local officials to speculate that it will eventually process beef.  But officials are quoted as saying, “It probably doesn’t serve White Oak’s interest to divulge its plans right now.”

Of course the public and the taxpayers’ interest in all of this is not even mentioned.  Their role is to be quiet and eat the bullshit. 

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Aberdeen, South Dakota, United States