Frank Pommersheim has published an important new paper titled “Land Into Trust: An Inquiry into Law, Policy, and History” in the Idaho Law Review. A PDF is here:
Here is the introduction:
The land-into-trust policy of the Indian Reorganization Act (“IRA”) is an express legislative attempt to undo, or at least ameliorate, the massive loss of Indian land that resulted from the federal government’s allotment policy of the late nineteenth *520 and early twentieth centuries. The allotment policy occasioned a severe reduction in the national Indian land estate without any benefit to the affected Indians and tribes including the vaunted goals of assimilation and the reduction of poverty in Indian country. The extensive loss of land produced much economic hardship, cultural strain, and erosion of tribal governing authority.
The subsequent attempt of IRA law and policy to reverse this process of severe land loss raises significant questions about the ability of law, and Indian policy in particular, to repair history without creating new conflict that reprises, even deepens, old animosities. This article will survey and analyze this process from both a policy and empirical point of view. In addition, this piece will review the nitty-gritty administrative procedures for putting land into trust, the various procedural challenges to this process, as well as substantive legal challenges to the validity of the land-into-trust portions of the IRA, especially in the state of South Dakota. Finally, the article will tally the empirical results to date, and conclude by examining non-litigation strategies and solutions with an eye on their ability to meet the needs of all concerned.