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“Dead Indian Act,” or Act of May 27, 1902 (32 Stat. 245)

Relevant Provisions: 
Sale of allotments; alienation

Established a procedure whereby the adult heirs of a deceased allottee could sell the heirship lands with approval of the secretary of the interior.

Section 7: States that:

The adult heirs of any deceased Indian to whom a trust or other patent containing restrictions upon alienation has been or shall be issued for lands allotted to him may sell and convey the lands inherited from such a decedent, but in the case of minor heirs their interests shall be sold only by a guardian duly appointed by the proper court upon the order of such court, made upon petition filed by the guardian.

An excerpt from a government report [1] published at the time explains that upon the death of the allottee, there were four possible methods of disposing of the estate:

  1. The secretary of the interior could issue fee patents to the heirs as a group or otherwise remove the restrictions;
  2. The estate could be physically partitioned among the heirs and either trust or fee patents issued to them individually;
  3. The estate could be retained by the superintendent and leased for the benefit of the heirs; or,
  4. The estate could be sold under government supervision and the proceeds distributed among the heirs.

Under the act of 1902 a single “competent” heir could demand the sale of the whole allotment.”

Click here for full text of the act in Charles J. Kappler’s Indian Affairs:  Laws and Treaties, produced by Oklahoma State University Library

[1] “Indian Land Tenure, Economic Status, and Population Trends,” Part X of the Report on Land Planning, Office of Indian Affairs, United States Printing Office, 1935. 15-16.

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