Gabe Galanda is quoted at length in a nationally syndicated article by McLatchy Newspapers regarding Interior's nascent land buy back program.
“There’s no love for California Indian Country,” said Gabriel Galanda, a Seattle lawyer and a member of the Round Valley Indian Tribes of Mendocino County, Calif. He called the program “a disaster” in the making. . . Galanda, the Seattle lawyer, questioned why the same government agency that mismanaged Indian trust land should now be trusted to provide a fix. “Funding the agency to correct the problem they caused is not a prudent use of taxpayer dollars,” he said.
The article observes: "critics are skeptical, saying that federal law will still allow tribes to ultimately force unwilling minority landowners to sell once they’ve acquired 51 percent ownership of any individual parcel." Galanda is among those critics, having published several commentaries about the buy back program:
When Bureau of Indian Affairs Director Mike Black was pressed, he was forced to admit that the buy back program is specifically designed to bring tribes into at least a controlling 51 percent interest in fractionated allotted or restricted lands—at which time a tribe could then, on its own volition and with its own funding, force the sale of the remaining 49 percent or other minority interest. Make no mistake about it: while Interior’s plan now disclaims that it will facilitate forced sales under 25 U.S.C. 2204, the buy back program will catalyze controversial intra-tribal forced sales.
Consider Gabe's exchange with Director Black at a recent consultation session hosted by Interior in Seattle:
MR. GALANDA: What if one single undivided 18 interest holder objects to the sale? Does it then become an 19 involuntary sale that's ineligible for acquisition? 20 MR. BLACK: No. Every individual interest is 21 based on a willing seller. 22 MR. GALANDA: Okay. 23 MR. BLACK: So if -- you know, if there's five -- 24 well, let's just say there's ten interest holders within a 25 parcel or an allotment, nine of them want to sell and the one doesn't, he doesn't have to sell or she doesn't have to 2 sell. It does not preclude from going out and purchasing 3 the other nine interests. 4 MR. GALANDA: So the tribe would then have the 5 controlling 90 percent interest and the dissident would 6 still have their 10 percent? 7 MR. BLACK: Yes. 8 MR. GALANDA: But could the tribe then force the 9 sale on that 10 percent interest once it's acquired 10 90 percent interest? 11 MR. BLACK: It wouldn't be necessarily under this 12 program. But there is some language within AIPRA that I 13 don't know the specifics of, that there is some ability for 14 tribes to do some purchase under AIPRA. 15 MR. GALANDA: So the idea is let's bring the 16 tribes into a controlling level of interest voluntarily, but 17 then the tribe could cause an involuntary sale of the 18 minority interest, in terms; is that correct? 19 MR. BLACK: I would rather turn that over to our 20 solicitors for a specific question, but there are 21 opportunities to do that, yes. I don't believe any tribes 22 really exercise that today, that I'm aware of, but this -- 23 there are options out there available. 24 MR. GALANDA: Well, I think you understand, 25 though, there's two pending forced sales within this region right now. So I just think it's something that we should be 2 aware of. I don't think it's a healthy presumption to 3 suggest that this will be done 100 percent voluntarily.
Interior should get honest and admit that the current buy back program is not "entirely voluntary"--it will catalyze the forced sale of tribal member-owned lands, by their own tribes. Heeding the so-called "lessons of Cobell," Interior must be more forthright and proactive about such obvious forthcoming legal entanglements. Oh what a tangled web we weave.
Gabriel "Gabe" Galanda is a partner at Galanda Broadman PLLC, of Seattle, an American Indian owned law firm. He is an enrolled member of the Round Valley Indian Tribes of Covelo, California. Gabe assists tribal governments and businesses in all matters of tribal economic development and diversification, including entity formation and related tax strategy. He also helps tribes and tribal businesses and joint ventures withstand attack from federal, state and local government. Gabe can be reached at 206.691.3631 or firstname.lastname@example.org.