One of the most important issues in Indian country is land and minerals underneath. OILS works to ensure that Indian country stays in Indian hands, through probates of restricted land and the preparation of wills for Indian senior citizens. Restricted land, held by members of the five civilized tribes of eastern Oklahoma, is the basis for tribal jurisdiction of these tribes. However, according to a study OILS conducted in 2001, more than seventy-five percent of restricted Indian land titles in eastern Oklahoma have some issue with clear ownership of title.
OILS is the only law firm in the state that regularly undertakes the time-consuming and difficult work in probating and clearing title to these lands. OILS’s work to clear these titles benefits the entire state. In the past three years, more than $750,000.00 has moved from money accounts held by deceased land owners to their heirs in Oklahoma. Additionally, OILS regularly conducts wills clinics across Oklahoma to help Indians with either trust or restricted lands prepare the final estates. Without a will, laws such as the American Indian Probate Reform Act could result in the loss of family lands.
OILS also protects mineral interests. OILS, along with the Native American Rights Fund, was instrumental in the settlement of Kauley v. United States, a lawsuit that predated the Cobell lawsuit, and revealed many of the problems addressed in that litigation. OILS is currently in federal court seeking redress for right of way violations on Kiowa trust lands.