indian land buyback fraction chilean landowners

Chilean Large Owners Lose Home and Lives to Indians
mapuche brazilian loggers vietnam constitution kenyan commission

US Gov't Offers to Both Buy and Return Indian Lands

Conflicts between recent majorities and ancestral farmers can be resolved. We excerpt five 20012-13 articles from: (1) AP, Dec 18, on the US by M. Volz; (2) AP, Jan 4, on Chile by F. Quilodran; (3) BBC, Dec 22, on Brazil by S. Branford; (4) Standard Digital, Dec 16, on Kenya by C. Kowuor; and (5) VietNamNet Bridge, Jan 8, on Vietnam by Chung Hoang.

by Matt Volz, by Federico Quilodran, by Sue Branford, by Collins Kowuor, and by Chung Hoang

U.S. government officials are launching a $1.9 billion Native American land buyback program. The 10-year, $1.9 billion buyback program is the largest part of the $3.4 billion settlement of a class-action lawsuit filed by Elouise Cobell of Browning, Mont., in 1996 and finalized last month.

Land fractionation was caused by the 1887 Dawes Act, which split tribal lands into individual allotments of 80- to 160-acre parcels. Those allotments were inherited by multiple heirs with each passing generation, and there are now more than 92,000 land tracts with 2.9 million fractional interests.

Of that number, more than 21,200 land tracts have 100 or more owners and many parcels have thousands of owners. Using or leasing those tracts requires approval of all the owners, so often they sit without being developed.

While the settlement may not be as large as some wished, the deal ended the legal deadlock and provided some certainty for the beneficiaries.

The government will solicit tribal comments on the buyback program's initial framework in the coming months.

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An elderly couple whose family's vast landholdings have long been targeted by Mapuche Indians in southern Chile were killed in an arson attack while trying to defend their home.

No one claimed responsibility for the attack, which some Mapuche Indians repudiated as senseless and abhorrent.

Werner Luchsinger, 75, fired a weapon in self-defense, and struck a man from the nearby Mapuche community of Juan Quintrupil before his home burned to the ground, regional police chief Ivan Bezmalinovic said.

The attack began Thursday night as one of many political protests around Chile commemorating the death five years ago of Mapuche activist Matias Catrileo, who was shot in the back by an officer who served a minor sentence and then rejoined the police. The' Lumahue ranch is 16 miles (25 kilometers) from the spot where Catrileo was killed on Jan. 3, 2008.

Many of Chile's Mapuche activist groups were silent Friday about the murders, repeating instead their complaints about continuing police violence of the kind that killed Catrileo years ago.

The Luchsinger family has been among the most outspoken in defending the claims of the region's landowners against ancestral land claims by the Mapuche.

Chile's law allows for holding suspects in isolation without charges, using secret witnesses, and other measures that have been discredited by Chile's courts in previous cases of Mapuche violence.

The Mapuches' demands for land and autonomy date back centuries. They resisted Spanish and Chilean domination for more than 300 years before they were forced south to Araucania in 1881. Many of the 700,000 Mapuches who survive among Chile's 17 million people still live in Araucania. A small fraction have been rebelling for decades, destroying forestry equipment and torching trees. Governments on the left and right have sent in police while offering programs that fall far short of their demands.

The Luchsinger family also arrived in Araucania in the late 1800s, from Switzerland, and benefited from the government's colonization policies for decades thereafter, becoming one of the largest landowners in Chile's Patagonia region. Their forestry and ranching companies now occupy vast stretches of southern Chile, and impoverished Mapuches live on the margins of their properties.

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Using the power of patronage, loggers have acquired great political power in Brazil's Amazonia. Their dominance is being challenged by families who live sustainably off the forest.

Loggers have warned the families that they would be risking their lives if they pressed ahead.

The forest is being emptied into the loggers' lorries. Brazil's tough environmental regulations not implemented largely because there are far too few law enforcers on the ground.

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The commission is allowed to make regulations to secure the land rights of the minority communities.

The commission shall assist both the national and county governments in the administration of settlement programmes. The commission shall reserve public land for establishment of approved settlement programmes and also determine the sum of money to be paid by beneficiaries of such settlement.

One of the sources of revenues for governments is land and property tax; we have it in form of land rent currently payable to national government, stamp duty payable for purchase and leasing of property, land rates currently payable to local government, among others. National Land Commission is supposed to assess these taxes and premiums on property.

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In Vietnam about 70 percent of the population are farmers, and the average of production land being lowest in the world. Land is the material conditions to ensure job and life stability for farmers. Land always heats up the National Assembly as in the discussion of the amendments to the Constitution at the year-end session of 2012.

Director of Legislative Research Institute, Dinh Xuan Thao of Hanoi, supported the draft amendment to the Constitution which states that "land property belongs to the entire people."

Mr. Thao gave some reasons: the State, on behalf of the entire population, enables people to access equally and directly to the land, removing the status of using land ownership monopoly to exploit the land user; and it ensures equitable distribution of land rent, preventing a few from capturing most of the land rent.

To read more

JJS: The Vietnamese have the right idea: share the natural rents. That amendment should be passed into their constitution and into the constitution of every nation on Earth. Doing so would help clarify one’s right to a share of both Earth and her worth, making land disputes insupportable and hopefully less frequent.

Getting clear on property rights in general would help avoid violent or peaceful disputes. That is, while land and rent are things we have an equal right to, we do not have a right to take or tax another’s income, sales, or buildings. Those are the goods and services that we do produce, unlike Earth which was created before we got here. When government uses its power of taxation to take valid private property, they obscure the borders between what’s yours, what’s mine, and what’s ours. That makes it harder to see that land is ours and should not be an object of speculation.

Abolishing taxes on our efforts while recovering the rents we pay for Earth, and abolishing subsidies to insiders while disbursing revenue equally to everyone, those are the tenets of geonomics, a policy that has worked wherever tried, to the degree tried.


Editor Jeffery J. Smith runs the Forum on Geonomics and helped prepare a course for the UN on geonomics. To take the “Land Rights” course, click here .

Also see:

Without Reform, Small Farmers Become Trespassers

When Mortgages Exclude the Location …

While Ghana Mining Companies Don't Pay Rent ...

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