"Maps don’t just have outside edges. They have inside edges. Holes.” – Marten, The Wise Man's Fear

The United States trust land process is one by which the Secretary of the Department of the Interior will acquire title to land and hold it for the benefit of Native American tribes.2 Typically, the bequeathed land is adjacent to an existing and acknowledged (prior to 1934) tribe. There are some instances whence the land is not directly adjacent, but it must be within commute distance if the land is to serve as a driver of economic growth for individuals of the tribe. This process was defined and executed by 1934’s IRA.

ORTL has long led to conflict between American states and Native American Tribes. Because only the Federal Government may treat with the individual tribes, States cannot assess property tax against any property both owned and stored by a tribe member within reservation land. For the same reasons, if a tribe member lives and is employed within reservation land, their income is non-taxable at the state level. ORTL has caused conflict because there are times when a non-adjacent parcel of land is put in trust for its agrarian, developmental, or tourist-attracting qualities.

Carcieri v. Kempthorne (2007) argued that the IRA did not allow DOI to grant land to tribes recognized after 1934, that a Rhode Island act limited the power of the IRA, and that the IRA violated Amendment X. DOI must discuss with States if holding land for a tribe recognized after 1934 and, as the distance between the reservation and land grows, so much the weight given to local and state governments be given increased weight by the DOI decision.3

1 - Wikipedia "Indian Reorganization Act accessed 7/18/2019
2 - NCSL "Trust Land Overview" accessed 7/18/2019
3 - NCSL "Land Trust Project" accessed 7/18/2019


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