Management System (TAAMS). However at this time TAAMS contains only tabular data about the allotments.
In addition, the ongoing Cobell v. Kempthorne litigation has increased the security for trust information. Cobell v. Kempthorne is a class-action suit brought against the U.S. government by Native American representatives, claiming that Indian trust assets have been accounted for incorrectly. One of the findings of the Cobell case is that the BIA has been unable to adequately track individual allotee names and that the prior system was insecure. Since individual allottee information is ultimately tied back to distribution of income derived by trust land, this database and its integrity are of great concern to tribal people.
Even at the tribal level there is a great desire to keep trust land information confidential. Tribes such as the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe in New York keep tight control of their trust information. Information is not permitted to leave the office, even for in-house projects.
Another challenge to the release of information on parcels is related to the internal politics of the tribes. As mentioned earlier, many reservations have significant non-Indian ownership among the trust land on the reservation. However, the general public’s perception of Indian reservations typically comes from state highway maps and other maps that show the reservation as one homogeneous polygon. This has led individuals to believe that the entire reservation is composed of tribal trust land. Some people feel that depiction of the tribal presence as a reservation line bolsters tribal sovereignty more than displaying individual parcels or trust land.
Another concern tribes have with the release of land parcel data is that some tribes do not wish to accept the current land parcel delineations as defined by the federal government. In addition, there is fear that acceptance of those lands will set a precedent, or interfere with current land claims. Many tribes have ongoing land claim disputes across the United States.
Yet another difficulty that tribes face in the political arena is the inability to effectively work with county governments where counties also have some jurisdiction. This problem makes the creation of a homogeneous parcel layer across the reservation extremely difficult. Since trust lands are not taxed, some county officials see tribes as a burden on the tax rolls or even a threat. This is especially the case today when tribes have used gaming revenues to start buying back land on the reservation and convert it to trust land, essentially removing it from the tax base. Sometimes tribes may have better access to resources and training for creation of a GIS parcel database than do counties. This is because the tribes fall within the Department of the Interior’s licensing agreement for GIS software. This licensing agreement provides the complete suite of GIS software at no out-of-pocket cost to the tribes. This perceived technological advantage may be threatening to county governments. Tribes may have strong capabilities in GIS, but the real power of a parcel layer is in the owner’s names. Regular acquisition of parcel tabular data is necessary to make the parcel layer useful. Creation of a useful parcel layer is a team effort and requires tribes and counties to work together.