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Grantee Spotlight: Indian Land Tenure Foundation

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For more than a century, ownership of American Indian land in the United States has been sliced and slivered. The Dawes Act of 1887 divided Indian land among tribal members. Today, when a tribal land owner dies, the title is divided up amongst heirs, but the land itself is not physically divided. This practice has led to extreme fractionation of tribal land titles.

The Indian Land Tenure Foundation (ILTF) assists American Indians as they identify and overcome barriers that result from fractionation.

Jamie Ford, Development Officer at ILTF, explains, “Fractionation has happened generation after generation. Sometimes there are over 3,000 owners of a 160-acre piece of land. Before any decisions can be made with regards to use of that land, the majority of land ownership has to agree. You can imagine the time and effort that takes. This leads to diminished valuable land resources. ”

In June 2012, Blandin Foundation awarded a $100,000 grant to the Indian Land Tenure Foundation to hold a series of community education workshops dedicated to assisting American Indians thwart fractionation through estate planning.

Ford believes community engagement is the key to solving this age-old problem.

“We’re trying to solve a 125-year old problem in the midst of changing federal restrictions and the absence of former government estate planning services. Because of this, community education and outreach are really important.”

Working with a team of attorneys, ILTF’s Blandin Foundation-funded workshops have impacted more than 455 tribal members and 47,325.34 acres of reservation land in Minnesota.

Jamie Ford, ILTF Development Officer

Avis Poupart, a member of the Leech Lake Band, expressed her thanks in a note to the ILTF, “Words cannot describe how thankful I am for the completion of my will. I have procrastinated for many years to accomplish this task.”

Ford hopes that this project will enhance the ability of American Indian communities to use tribal land as an asset. “We see this problem in tribal lands across the U.S. Estate planning services help to educate Native Americans on how to prevent fractionation and utilize the land to its full potential.”

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