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Burke Act, Act of May 8, 1906 (34 Stat. 182)

Relevant Provisions: 
Competency; forced fee patent; determination of legal heirs; citizenship; powers of the secretary of the interior

Amends section 6 of the General Allotment Act, adding that the secretary of the interior is authorized to cause an issue of a patent in fee simple to an allottee whenever the secretary is convinced that the Indian allottee is competent and capable of managing his or her affairs (This did not require the Indian allottee’s approval, desire, or knowledge of the fee simple patent issue).  After the patent of fee simple is given, all restrictions to sale or encumbrance are removed and the allotment is subject to taxation. Under this act, all allottees who have not received fee simple patents are subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the United States. This act does not extend to Indian Territory (Oklahoma).

This act also grants the secretary of the interior express authority over determining the legal heirs of deceased Indians for the first time. Whenever an allotment is made, and the Indian allottee dies before the expiration of the trust period, the allotment is canceled and will revert back to the United States.  The secretary of the interior is then authorized to ascertain the legal heirs of the deceased and issue patents in fee simple to the heirs for the land.  Or, the secretary may sell the land and issue a patent to the purchasers and pay the net proceeds to the heirs.

Furthermore, the Burke Act amends the General Allotment Act by granting citizenship to Indian allottees after a patent in fee simple is granted to them. Prior to this, the General Allotment Act had stated that citizen nship was granted to an individual Indian once the allotment was completed and he or she was given a trust patent (or if he or she voluntarily takes up a residence separate and apart from any tribe therein and “adopted the habits of civilized life.” )

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