Home Agriculture These Nebraska Tribes Are Buying Back Farmland and Attempting to Reverse History

These Nebraska Tribes Are Buying Back Farmland and Attempting to Reverse History


Aaron LaPointe sits behind a desk in the Little Priest Tribal College’s library basement in Winnebago, Nebraska, all set to speak with a class in a brand-new program he assisted establish: varied farming.

He’s here, on this 100-degree August day, to reveal high school and university student– the future of the Winnebago Tribe– how Ho-Chunk Farms, the people’s farming business, is altering the face of farming on their appointment.

” When you asked a trainee at my high school what a farmer appears like they would inform you a white guy with cowboy boots and a stetson on,” stated LaPointe, senior director of company operations for Ho-Chunk, Inc. “They didn’t see themselves as farmers, they simply believed that’s what the white guys do. And we simply let them utilize our land to do that.”

That understanding is rooted in a century of truth. The people just owns approximately 27,000 acres of its 120,000-acre appointment, after U.S. federal government actions straight or indirectly led its farmland to enter non-Native hands– primarily white farmers.

But that truth is beginning to alter. In the previous 5 years, 3 Nebraska people– the Winnebago, the Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska and the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska– have actually purchased a combined 3,000-odd acres of farmland that was as soon as theirs.

These buybacks aren’t simple or low-cost. Tribal leaders state landowners who understand that people desire the land back think they’ll pay any rate.

And all 3 people are paying higher-than-normal rates, according to a Flatwater Free Press analysis of information collected by a University of Nebraska-Lincoln journalism class.

The Winnebago Tribe invested almost $10,000 per acre, typically, to redeem 340 acres of ag land. That’s about $3,000 greater than thenortheast region’s 2022 average

Tribal leaders believe the greater headaches and rates deserve it.

” We wish to begin farming our own appointment. We wish to own our appointment once again,” LaPointe stated.

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Ho-Chunk Inc. Farms starts spring tilling on tribal land near Winnebago on April 20, 2020. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga for the Flatwater Free Press)

Reservation, not scheduled

After the Civil War, the United States federal government attempted to overthrow the method most Native American people lived– consisting of the method they saw land.

The Dawes Act, passed in 1887, attempted to require assimilation by splitting the formerly communally owned appointment into 160-acre pieces of farmland, separately owned by tribal members.

The federal government then offered the remaining land to non-Native inhabitants.

” At one point we owned 100 percent of our appointment, up until the federal government believed ‘Oh, this guy’s got possibly excessive land, let’s take a few of that from them,'” LaPointe stated.

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Native Americans had no idea of land as residential or commercial property, stated Ted Hibbeler, UNL Tribal Extension Educator and member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. People developed relationships with land over countless years however didn’t see it as a kind of cash or power. When tribal members grew economically desperate,

More appointment land was lost.

One example: After the land allocation, members of the Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska who could not manage food were encouraged by a White Cloud, Kansas, grocer to transfer their land as a pledge to pay back.

” They required food, which’s simply what they needed to do,” stated Tony Fee, secretary of the Iowa Tribe. “This private got them to sign it over as security … and they never ever might manage to get it back. They lost it.”

Today, the Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska owns about half of its 12,000-acre appointment, with Non-Native and native land ownership checkerboarded throughout.

On the Winnebago appointment, lots of households lost their land back paying unknown taxes, or offered the land to cover medical expenses, LaPointe stated.Indian Land Tenure Foundation In 1934, the United States federal government put all staying Native-owned allocations into an indefinite trust. By that point, an approximated 90 million acres had actually been eliminated from Native ownership, according to the


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Land ownership had actually entered just one instructions– far from Native people and farmers. Till just recently, when numerous people chose to alter that.

Ho-Chunk Farms senior fields operations manager Jeffery Thomas starts planting a soybean crop in the Big Bear Valley near Winnebago on May 2. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga for the Flatwater Free Press)

Sticker shock

In the previous couple of years, in addition to other bigger purchases, the Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska purchased 4 acres beside some land it currently owned. The Ponca Tribe of Nebraska made a 36-acre purchase.

Neither is noteworthy, other than for the price: More than $43,000 per acre.

” I do not see a lot of locations where anything approaching that takes place,” stated Cris Stainbrook, Oglala Lakota and president of the Indian Land Tenure Foundation. “I imply, $40,000 an acre is a lot.”2022 Nebraska Farm Real Estate Report Farmland rates in Nebraska have actually increased throughout the board in the last few years. According to UNL’s

, where the Winnebago and Iowa are purchasing, typical acre worths for top quality land are around $7,000.

Those people typically pay much more than that. Every piece of appointment land the Iowa Tribe purchases is priced greater than what comparable land offers for, Fee stated.

Racism is a hidden factor for greater land rates, Stainbrook stated. He has actually seen sales where the asking rate dropped significantly when a non-Native company was the purchaser.

” When we’re assisting (people) get land back there’s this underlying idea that if the people desires it bad enough, they’ll pay anything for it, or they should have a gambling establishment someplace and for that reason they can manage to pay more,” Stainbrook stated.

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Sales on tribal land are in some cases disincentivized by existing tax policies, like capital gains, LaPointe stated, since the initial sales occurred for such little cash that the taxes would be disproportionately high.

Ho-Chunk Farms supervisor Aaron LaPointe assists other staff members and members of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska harvest corn Sept. 5 near Winnebago. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga for the Flatwater Free Press)

But people should not be paying more since of the present owner’s tax costs, Stainbrook stated.

” Do you believe they offer it to another non-Indian and inform them, ‘Well, you’ll need to pay X quantity more since of our capital gains’?” Stainbrook stated.

Another factor for high rates: High need.

One of the last pieces of appointment land the Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska purchased was provided to another private right before the sale, Fee stated, so the people’s only alternative was up their deal to get the land.

” They got us over the barrel if we desire it. I imply, then they understand we desire it. We desire it bad enough. We’re gon na spend for it,” Fee stated, “To me, that’s not properly, however we truly do not have an option.”

The Iowa Tribe didn’t have lots of chances to purchase land 4 or 5 years earlier, when worths were more affordable. Now that rates have actually increased, sellers are providing up land– if the rate is.

” The people does feel that we must do whatever we can to attempt to get the land back,” Fee stated. “And we’re simply doing what we can to pursue that.”

Food as sovereignty

For Trey Blackhawk, supervisor of the not-for-profit Winnebago Tribal Farm, obtaining more farmland is a method for the people to feed itself without counting on outdoors sources.

The farm, established in 2018, grows vegetables and fruits on a 40-acre plot, in addition to standard Indian corn utilized in events. In the next years, Blackhawk intends to open a food co-op for the people.

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Right now, the closest supermarket to the Winnebago appointment remains in Sioux City, Iowa. People members increase to 30 miles each method to get their groceries.

Winnebago Tribal Farm supervisor Trey Blackhawk seen at the farm beyond Winnebago on Sept. 14. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga for the Flatwater Free Press)

” I believe the pandemic assisted individuals understand that we’re not extremely sovereign. We can’t even feed ourselves, truly,” LaPointe stated. “All these lacks were occurring and we’re like, geez, we’re truly based on a great deal of individuals for our food sources.”

During the COVID-19 pandemic, 49 percent of Native Americans and Alaskan Natives experienced food insecurity, according to a Native American Agriculture Fund study.

Investments in Native farming assistance people to keep food production regional so they can support their neighborhoods, stated Whitney Sawney, a resident of the Cherokee Nation and director of interactions and policy for NAAF.

The Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska farms about 4,500 acres of their land, Fee stated, with the objective of food sovereignty.

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The people is approaching regenerative farming, utilizing native plant types, natural fertilizers and beekeeping to grow nutrition thick foods.

Local tribal school kids check out the Winnebago tribal farm to discover planting and animals on April 22, 2022, near Winnebago. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga for the Flatwater Free Press)

On the Winnebago appointment, LaPointe typically checks out classes at Little Priest Tribal College, providing farming as a method to feed the people– and an excellent profession chance.

LaPointe, 32, is the 2nd earliest Ho-Chunk Farms staff member. Young people members are ending up being thinking about farming. LaPointe thinks they can be the next generation of farmers.

” That’s why I state land acquisition is so crucial for us, since our development depends on it,” LaPointe stated. “If I’m going to develop tasks for this next generation of individuals that are getting informed in this field, we require to be progressing by growing our acre base.”flatwaterfreepress.org The Flatwater Free Press is Nebraska’s very first independent, not-for-profit newsroom concentrated on examinations and function stories that matter. Discover more at

. This reporting becomes part of a partnership with the Institute for Nonprofit NewsRural News NetworkEnergy News Network, and the Flatwater Free Press, Mississippi Free Press, New Mexico In Depth, Religion News Service, Sierra Nevada Ally and

Assistance from the Walton Family Foundation made the job possible.(*)



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