Document Type


Publication Date

January 2006


Tribal governments, American Indian, Trustee status, beneficiary, The General Allotment Act of 1887, federal law, federal government, stereotype, Cherokee Nation, land rights, mineral rights, property, natural resources, exclusive, autonomy.


In order for tribal governments and individual American Indians to gain autonomy over their lands and natural resources, federal law must end the federal government’s trustee status over Indian lands. The General Allotment Act of 1887 was intended to accelerate the transfer of American Indians into mainstream American society by teaching them how to become self-sufficient through efficient land use. In turn, this would lessen the federal government’s need to supervise and protect American Indian interests. However, the allotment policy was never fully implemented, leaving the federal government with perpetual oversight of Indian lands. The federal government’s trustee role has been preserved due in part to the prevailing belief that American Indians still need protection. Currently, American Indians have only two options for land control. They can either be subjected to a federal trusteeship and avoid state regulation, or they may become fee owners but have their lands subjected to state regulations and taxation. Currently, American Indians have not been provided with a viable option for exclusive control over their lands and resources. An adequate reform should provide perpetual tribal jurisdiction over land that is free from federal and state interference. To accomplish this goal, it is necessary for the reform process to be gradual. Reform can be achieved through a series of conveyances and amendments to existing federal law. Under this proposal, American Indians would gain autonomy over their lands, and the federal government would be relieved of the burdensome administrative costs associated with its oversight responsibilities.