Divided Interests: The Increasing Detrimental Fractionation of Indian Land Ownership
Unlocking the Wealth of Indian Nations, Edited by Terry L. Anderson, Lanham: Lexington Books, Forthcoming
31 Pages Posted: 13 Nov 2013 Last revised: 7 Jun 2016
Date Written: May 3, 2016
In 1992, the General Accounting Office (GAO) published a quantitative survey of Indian land ownership of twelve reservations, which was the first and still is the only survey of Indian land ownership. We use 2010 data to show how ownership fractionation for these reservations has changed since the original GAO study. Fractionation is the continuing division of ownership of Indian land tracts due to inheritance laws dating back to 1887. Despite Congressional action regarding land fractionation, and the US Bureau of Indian Affairs’ (BIA’s) land consolidation programs, fractionation has not only continued, but BIA’s complex recordkeeping workload has nearly doubled for the twelve reservations over the eighteen year interval. The GAO estimated that BIA’s annual recordkeeping costs for these twelve reservations were between $60 and $75 million (in 2010 dollars). With the addition of over a million new ownership records, due to fractionation, we estimate BIA’s yearly recordkeeping costs for these twelve reservations have increased to $246 million in 2010. We discuss how to end fractionation in order to improve economic development for Indian tribes and to achieve significant administrative cost savings.
Keywords: Indian land ownership, ownership fractionation, Indian reservations
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