MVSKOKE RESERVATION – The Muscogee Nation Realty and Trust Services Department provided a one-time, emergency payment to counties within the reservation to prevent the sale of property owned by Muscogee citizens.
The National Council approved a one-time special appropriation of $75,000 for the department to directly assist with ad valorem taxes.
Property with three years delinquent taxes were up for auction in the Oklahoma State Tax Sale held on June 12.
Counties provided the department with a list of the at-risk properties 90 days prior to the sale.
TAAMS Coordinator Rachel Langley initiated the process of making connections with owners, possible owners, and probable heirs in the hopes of preventing property loss.
“We had several restricted but taxable and some land where some people who had passed away mostly due to COVID who’s probates weren’t done, where we didnt know who the heirs were,” Langley said.
The funds were only meant to cover 2019 taxes, keeping land parcels off the market.
“We didn’t catch them up but kept it from being sold,” Langley said.
The “no strings attached” tax funding assistance was to help those who don’t qualify with existing programs that the Nation has to offer.
Langley said the number of citizens needing this emergency assistance was small, ranging from one to three percent of the landowners.
According to Langley, she was able to notify a family member or heir to each property at stake. Most landowners were participating in eligible programs or able to pay the outstanding balance.
She claims she had trouble with one particular property, in which she sent 72 letters addressed to possible contacts before she finally received a response from a grandchild of the deceased owners residing in Texas.
A typical case to Langley, the two owners had passed with the last one passing in 2016. Counties are only legally required to send two notification letters to a single address before the county decides to sell.
In some cases, Langley has seen a number of land parcels go unpaid due to lack of communication. Heirs and owners are often not notified of their inheritance or co-ownership, leaving taxes unpaid.
Bills can keep stacking up as newspaper ad runs of $125 each are tacked on to the delinquent balance, which Langley claims would be run twice a year for three years.
There are programs within the MCN Realty and Housing Departments that assist landowners and homeowners who meet certain criteria with tax assistance.
“There are a lot of citizens who are unaware of the programs we have to help with taxes,” Langley said.
Mutual help homes in paid-off status with no current liens can be put into trusts through the realty department.
The department does not plan on making this a regular program or assistance, Langley said. They would like to take more preventative measures by educating citizens on various programs or assisting them with further needs.
Realty trust services include trust probates, inventories for probates and estate planning, trust acquisitions, removal of restrictions, advising on surface property, leases, rights-of-way, on-site inspections, surveys and appraisals for restricted/trust properties, environmental assessments, quiet title suits, land referral services, fencing for restricted property, forestry and a land title records office for property owners.
Over 18,000 Muscogee citizens were granted land that once totaled to over 2.9 million acres. Data as of April 1, 2023 states that the Realty Department can account for approximately 131,000 acres of individual restricted land and 8,456.31 acres of tribal trust lands.
For more information, call Langley at 918-732-7704.