Sign up for ILTF news

  • submit
  • submit

Sale of Indian Land

Click on the image below to open a sample form.

The Claims Settlement Act of 2010 authorized approval of the $3.4 billion Indian Trust Settlement, which allocates $1.9 billion to the Indian Trust Land Consolidation Fund for the purchase of individual trust land undivided interests. Undivided interests purchased through the program will be returned to the tribe with the goal of reducing fractionation and consolidating the tribal land base. Once the process and procedures for purchasing the trust land have been determined, Indian landowners across Indian Country will be contacted by the overseeing agency-likely the BIA-and invited to sell their individual ownerships interests in fractionated parcels.

Consolidating trust lands and reducing fractionation are definitely good things. At the same time, individual landowners should carefully consider any decision to sell their lands. There may be other options, such as a gift conveyance or partition, that would accomplish the same goals, but in a way that allows the landowner or his or her family to keep control of the assets.

Steps in the Process
Most trust land sold on the reservation is purchased by the tribe. According to federal regulations, the tribe has first right of refusal for all trust land sales. If a landowner wants to sell to someone other than the tribe, he or she may have to provide evidence to the BIA or tribal realty department that an attempt to sell to the tribe first has been made but the tribe did not want to purchase the land. The seller will also have to acquire consent of a majority of the co-ownership in the allotment in order to sell his or her interests to someone who is not already a co-owner

After the Application for the Sale of Indian Land and supporting documents (such as the ITI Report, survey and plat map and Cobell Notice and Waiver and Confirmation of Consultation) are submitted to either the tribal land office or BIA realty office, a request for appraisal will be submitted. Once the appraisal is completed, it will be sent to the landowner with a copy of the deed for sale. The landowner can either accept the appraised value for the land or try to negotiate for more. The BIA is obligated to support the landowner in these negotiations, regardless of the asking price. If a satisfactory deal cannot be reached between both parties, the landowner can choose to not sell the land at that point. The land is not sold until the deed is signed. If a deal is reached, the deed will be signed by both parties and the money for the sale will be dispersed to the landowner’s IIM account.

Length of Time
One source reported that a land sale process in the Great Plains Region takes anywhere from one to three months, depending on the complexity of the sale and how many owners are involved. A source from the Midwest Region claimed that six to eight months would be possible, but considered very fast. This source pointed out that changes to the system resulting from the Cobell lawsuit may improve transparency but have decreased efficiency. Some processes now take quite a bit longer.