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Land Issues

February 8, 2012 marked the 125-year anniversary of the 1887 General Allotment Act (or Dawes Act),  a piece of legislation that was designed to assimilate American Indian people into white culture and was directly responsible for the loss of 90 million acres of Indian land—nearly two-thirds of the total Indian land base. The Act required tribally-held land to be divided among individual tribal members and the remaining “surplus” lands opened to white settlement. This division and alienation of Indian land and assets had devastating consequences for Indian people that still endure today. (Click on the boxes below to learn about some of the most serious effects.)

Visit our YouTube page to watch educational videos on the Dawes Act and other land tenure issues

Today, the Indian Land Tenure Foundation is working to reverse the negative effects of the Allotment Act, through land recovery, legislative and regulatory reform, and targeted outreach with community members.

Find out what you can do to help right now

  • Land Loss

    As a result of the General Allotment Act of 1887, 90 million acres of Indian land—nearly two-thirds of the total Indian land base—were taken out of Indian ownership and control.   MORE

  • Fractionated Ownership

    For over a century, Indian families have seen valuable land resources diminish as fractionated ownership increases with each passing generation. During the Allotment Era (1887-1934), reservation land was divided up and allotted to individual tribal   MORE

  • Checkerboarding

    Indian lands that were alienated as a result of the General Allotment Act of 1887 were sold or transferred to non-Indian parties but remained within reservation boundaries.   MORE

  • Trust Relationship

    The 56 million acres of reservation land currently under Indian ownership are held in trust for Indian people by the federal government. Consequently, approval by the Secretary of the Interior is required for nearly all land use decisions   MORE

  • Sacred Sites

    American Indians have traditionally practiced a land-based religion, in which the place and space of worship are fundamental. These practices are still an important part of Indian culture and spirituality today.   MORE

  • Land Management

    During the Allotment Era (1887-1934), land that was perceived to be the most valuable on Indian reservations in the U.S. was generally declared “surplus” and was sold or transferred to non-Indian parties.   MORE

  • Sovereignty & Jurisdiction

    The sovereignty of Indian nations in the U.S. was established during treaty-making, as first European nations and then the U.S. entered into treaties with tribes on a nation-to-nation basis. Even though the treaty-making era formally ended in 1871   MORE

  • Legal & Legislative

    Indian nations have a complex relationship with the federal government. On the one hand, the federal government ensures that Indian nations receive services and resources as established in treaties and other agreements.   MORE

  • Termination

    During the 1950s and 60s, Congress “terminated” or withdrew federal recognition of 109 tribes, primarily in Oregon and California. In all, 1,365,801 acres of land were removed from trust status during this period   MORE