In recognition of the massive loss of Indian territory since the European “discovery” of America, the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 provides a process whereby Indian tribes can expand their reservations by applying to have additional land placed into trust for their benefit. This process, known as the fee-to-trust process, is the subject of fervent opposition by many affected communities because once taken into trust for a tribe, such land is no longer subject to state and local taxation or zoning, planning, and other regulatory controls. Accordingly, this Comment explores the efficacy of the fee-to-trust process by analyzing the Pacific Region Bureau of Indian Affairs decisions on proposed trust acquisitions from 2001 through 2011. Supported by this data, which shows a 100% acceptance rate, this Comment ultimately concludes that the process is shockingly biased and toothless—merely an exercise in extreme rubber-stamping. Thus, there is great need for comprehensive reform of the fee-to-trust process, including the creation of a meaningful role in the process for affected communities, establishment of clear and specific standards for acceptance of land into trust, and an emphasis on collaborative solutions.
Kelsey J. Waples
Extreme Rubber-Stamping: The Fee-to-Trust Process of the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934,
40 Pepp. L. Rev.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.pepperdine.edu/plr/vol40/iss1/6