Timber Run land is being turned into trust land, asking owners to make contact

By Ken Luchterhand

As the Ho-Chunk Nation continues to acquire more land, the newly formed Realty Division is doing what it can to make everything a smooth process.
Timber Run is something they have been working on for a long time, but progress is finally being made.
The Timber Run community is located straight west of the Rocky Arbor exit on the I-90/94 north of Wisconsin Dells, or north of the Christmas Mountain community.
There are two types of land when it comes to land ownership, said Realty Division Director Matthew Carriaga.  The first type is private ownership, also referred to as “absolute ownership, which also is called “Fee Simple.” Fee Simple is subject to the state, county and town real estate taxation and zoning. The Nation can own it just as a land owner and not the governing entity.
The second type is considered “trust” property, which is not taxable by local governments and is owned by the United States in trust for the Nation and its member and leased to the homeowner.
In the case of the community of Timber Run, 95 people have settle there, having built houses or bought houses that were built there, through a tribal Home Ownership Program 20 years ago. The Ho-Chunk Nation planned to turn the land into federal trust land.
That never happened until now.
“The Nation is finally doing what we told them we would do,” Carriaga said. It has been one of the main objectives of the newly-formed Realty Division, having been formed about a year ago.
Originally, the idea was to package all the lots of the community together to be processed through the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) in one process. However, that has not been possible, so the individual lots have been processed into trust land, which involves a number of inspections and processes, including an environmental impact study.
They have about half the lots processed, but they are having trouble finding the people in the homes.
“Whoever is living in the homes need to contact the Realty Division so that we can get them into a trust lease,” Carriaga said. “Some people don’t know they live on leased land. People living there can apply for a title for their homes through the Nation’s Title Recording and Transfer Ordinance.”
Some people have lived there since 1995, but the records need to be updated, he said.
“We want to be able to assist and help tribal members,” Carriaga said.
“The whole process of converting off-reservation Fee Simple ownership land to trust land suddenly became more complicated with the Trump administration. With other administrations, the process for the Ho-Chunk Nation was finalized at the Midwest Regional Office, but now it has to be approved at the Central Office in Washington D.C.,” Carriaga said.
Although the Records Division has only been in existence for a relatively short time, the staff have accomplished a great deal, Carriaga said.
They have created a Title Transfer and Recording Ordinance, which tracks the transfer of property from one person to another and will provide a title of the property to the owner, something that was never possible before.
They also handle any land acquisitions for the Ho-Chunk Nation, land that has either been offered for sale or given to the Nation.
“We’re always looking to expand our land base,” Carriaga said. “Being able to enact and implement laws that govern our lands is the true definition of sovereignty.”