The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) has officially signed over the possessory holding land records to the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) on Friday, Jan. 17, which is a step toward the execution of a P.L. 93-638 contract for the Tribe to assume the Cherokee Agency’s remaining realty functions. During the last week, the BIA has been conducting a complete inventory of all EBCI possessory holding records, as well as other files being maintained at the Cherokee Agency.
On Jan. 17, BIA Cherokee Agency Superintendent William McKee and Principal Chief Richard G. Sneed endorsed the Chain of Custody Plan to Move Active Records, which provides the Tribe full custody and management of its possessory holding records.
For the first time since the commencement of the BIA’s oversight of the Tribe’s possessory holding records, the EBCI is now the owner of those files, which enable it to build strength and advance its self-determination and sovereignty. Previous to the action, possessory holding land records were considered property of the federal government and therefore not subject to the public records ordinance of the Cherokee Code or any applicable EBCI policies. This presented some challenges for both federal and tribal authorities for efficiently developing possessory holding transfers and lease agreements. This change in ownership alters that dynamic allowing EBCI Realty Services employees and Tribal leadership to conduct more efficient research and development of land transfers and leases.
“This change in ownership is an important exercise of our Tribal sovereignty and an important first step towards the EBCI being in full control of all of our land records,” said Chief Sneed. “The ease and speed of processing and accessing land records will greatly increase following this rule and will poise the EBCI to work towards further advancement of our land governance capabilities.”
The transfer of the possessory holding records from the federal government is an essential step today for the BIA to make an award of a 638 contract to our Tribal nation. The EBCI has proposed a 638 contract to the BIA Eastern Regional Office to begin managing Tribal leases on the Qualla Boundary, which are currently controlled by the BIA Cherokee Agency.
“This contract will be critical for our Realty program to be more efficient in helping our Tribal citizens build commercial, residential, and agricultural development,” states Tribal Realty Services Director Brandon Stephens
– EBCI Public Relations release