History Of Welsa
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HISTORY AND ISSUES

            The White Earth allotments and land claims controversy involved the individual property rights of Indian people who had received allotments (tracts) of land to be held “in trust” by the United States government.   The White Earth land claims involved over 1900 individual allotments and titles to over 100,000 acres of land, which were illegally transferred during the 1900’s.  The illegal transfers were accompanied through the use of mass quantities of liquor, falsified affidavits, mortgages on grocery bills, sales by minor children, and illegal tax forfeitures.  Many of those illegal transfers were uncovered during a federal investigation during the 1980’s.  After the extent of the land claims were discovered and political pressure from the current landowners was applied, the federal government chose to pursue a negotiated political settlement to the land claims controversy.

            The White Earth Land Settlement Act (WELSA) was passed in 1986 extinguishing the White Earth land claims by retroactively approving the illegal land transfers.  In exchange, WELSA provided that the allottees or their heirs would be compensated financially.  The monetary compensation is to be based on the fair market value of the land at the time of taking, minus any money received by the allottee at the time, plus interest to date.  The White Earth tribal government also received 6.6 million dollars for economic development purposes.

            The WELSA office is located in Bemidji, Minnesota.  The WELSA office is required to determine which allotments have claims, gather and submit all legal documents pertaining to potential heirs, how much each is entitled to receive, and to request payments from the United States Treasury for those heirs.  The following types of claims concerning the original allotments are covered by WELSA:  sales of illegally tax forfeited lands; sales by minors without government approval; sales by full bloods without government approval; and sales by court appointed guardians or probate administrators without government approval.

            All claims are probated under the 1986 Minnesota inheritance law.  The probate process begins with the Probate Clerk gathering information concerning births, marriages, and deaths.  That information is submitted to an Administrative Judge who issues a Preliminary Heirship Determination Order.  The Preliminary Heirship Determination can be appealed within forty (40) days.  A Final Order Determining Heirs is signed by the Judge and can be appealed within thirty (30) days.  The heirship determination process is not closed at this point.  If there is a need for further heirship determination (for example, if a person identified as an heir died after the original allottee) the Judge may issue an Order to Commence subsequent probate actions.

             After the Final Order Determining Heirs, Notice of Compensation Award letters are sent out to the heirs.  The Notices are mailed out once a month from the WELSA office.  All forms should be signed and returned to the WELSA Office. If the heir does not agree with the information contained in the Notice, instructions are included as how to file suit in U.S. District Court.  However, if the heir does not sign and return the Compensation Award letter, payment will not be disbursed.  The monetary compensation checks are issued from the U.S. Treasury on the last day of each month.  The WELSA Office does not give out any money amounts under any circumstance, as they are subject to change.

If the WELSA Office cannot locate an heir within two years from the date the Notice should have been sent, the payment will be made to the White Earth Band.  To date, a great majority of the heirs have been located.  To enable heirship determinations and payments, it is important that individuals keep the WELSA office informed of their current addresses and phone numbers.  Please refer to the Diligent Search list and contact the WELSA Office if you know the whereabouts of any individuals listed.  You can contact the WELSA Office at 218/751-6619 or our toll free number at 888/760-6222. 

             An important fact for individuals receiving monetary compensation is Section 16 of the Act which states, “None of the moneys which are distributed under this Act shall be subject to Federal or State income taxes or be considered as income or resources in determining eligibility for or the amount of assistance under the Social Security Act or any other federally assisted program.”


Contact Us: 1-888-760-6222 or (218) 751-6619

WELSA accepts no liability for the content of this website, or for the consequences of any actions taken on the basis of the information provided.
 


The White Earth Land Settlement Act - PDF