About this Dashboard
This data dashboard presents 2019 land area totals from the US Bureau of Indian Affairs for Native Lands for 491 native lands and off-reservation trust lands. The data includes acreage totals for Fee, Trust and Restricted lands broken down by Individual and Tribal for each of the 491 native land area.
About the Data
In 2017, with support from the Indian Land Tenure Foundation, the Native Lands Advocacy project began a concerted search for basic land area totals for native lands. We scoured the the internet, academic libraries, the National Archives and Library of Congress and were shocked we could only find records for a handful of years. In 2018 the Native Lands Advocacy Project submitted a FOIA request to the BIA requesting land area totals for US Native Lands going back 1934. After more than a year of going back and forth with the Bureau we finally received a response that included only one year, 2019 which we are making available here. It should be noted we have provided this data here in its raw format and has not been independently verified for accuracy or completeness. It should also be noted that data reported here only reflect the area of the various land ownership classifications used by the Bureau of Indian Affairs and does not necessarily correspond the total area under the jurisdiction of a particular tribe or the total area within the boundaries of a particular reservation. Additionally, this data does not include “fee-patented” (fee lands) that lie within the boundaries of Reservations.
Why is this Data and Dashboard Important?
Established in 1824, the US Bureau of Indian Affairs is responsible for the administration and management of 68.5 million surface acres held in trust by the United States for American Indian, Indian tribes, and Alaska Natives. Despite this huge responsibility, there is very little transparency or accountability when it comes to the BIA’s performance as Trustee. According to a 2009 Program Evaluation of the BIA Realty and Trust Program (the most recent such report) by Department of Interior’s office of Inspector General “The BIA Realty and Trust Program plays a key role in keeping the DOI promise “to protect and improve the trust assets of American Indians, Indian tribes, and Alaska Natives.” Additionally, this report excoriated the Bureau for its continued failure to develop meaningful performance measures. Specifically, the report states that in “Real Estate Services, acquisition and disposal of land and lease compliance activities are significant functions that also lack measures.” The failure of the BIA to provide even basic information about transactions of Native lands makes public scrutiny of these programs difficult, if not impossible. It is our intention to continue to request these records from the BIA and make them available here.
We believe this data is invaluable for tribes and native historians to be able to verify if there is agreement between various treaties and acts of congress the Bureau’s records. This data can also be used to determine if there is agreement between BIA numbers and the numbers reported by county assessors and state tax agencies to help identify lands that might have been issued illegal fee patents and never corrected.