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Allottee Issues

Jeffrey Hunt, Stephanie P. Kiger, Sharon Pudwill, Energy and Mineral Development in Indian Country

The Challenges of Fractionated Ownership

Fractionation occurs where trust allotments have so many small (fractional) interest owners that no single owner can effectively use the land. The higher the number of fractional owners, the harder it is to obtain consent among the co-owners to make any beneficial use of the property, even for something as simple as a residential lease. As can be seen by the following data and chart from the Indian Land Tenure Foundation (https://www.iltf.org/land-issues/fractionated-ownership), many allotments are becoming highly fractionated and are owned by hundreds or thousands of individuals who may own less than 1/250th of an interest in the trust land. By sheer volume of owners, obtaining consents can be a Herculean task and the problems associated with fractionation of allotments complicate mineral leasing on allotted lands. According to the Indian Land Tenure Foundation,

[f]or over a century, Indian families have seen valuable land resources diminish as fractionated ownership increases with each passing generation. As a result of the General Allotment Act of 1887 (also called the Dawes Act), reservation land was divided up and allotted to individual tribal members. When an allottee died, title ownership was divided up amongst all of the heirs, but the land itself was not physically divided. As such, each Indian heir received an