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Indian Land Tenure Foundation Summer Intern Researches the Appraiser Profession in Indian Country

August 3, 2010

In summer 2010, Indian Land Tenure Foundation hired intern Gwendolyn Gillson to research the appraiser profession, and in particular, appraisals of Indian land. ILTF became interested in this topic when, as part of the 2009 Cobell settlement, $2 billion dollars were set aside for an Indian land consolidation program. (Nearly all transactions taking place on Indian land, including land consolidation, require an appraisal.) ILTF surmised that there would likely be a dramatic increase in demand for appraisals on Indian land as a result of the settlement. In addition, ILTF had anecdotal evidence that most appraisers working on Indian land were non-Native and that there were also unique challenges for people entering the profession.

Gillson’s research did confirm our assumptions that the number of Native appraisers working in Indian County is low. According to her sources, within the Office of Appraisal Services (OAS)(the entity that oversees appraisals on Indian trust land in the U.S.), there are only 15 Native appraisers and no known Native appraisers among those who contract with the OAS to conduct the more than 8,000 appraisals processed per year. 

And yet, the process of becoming an appraiser is fraught with challenges, especially for Native people living in rural areas. To become a Certified General Appraiser, in addition to having a B.A., candidates are required to have at least 3,000 hours of additional coursework and training. Distance education is not universally accepted in all certifying states and courses are most often offered in large cities. Training must be under the supervision of a mentoring appraiser, and there are very few appraisers available and/or willing to mentor trainees. Even though the average age of appraisers working for the OAS is 50, many of these individuals have no intention of retiring at 65, and they have no real incentive to spend time and resources training their would-be competition.

ILTF plans to publish Ms. Gillson’s findings on our website in fall 2010.

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