Allotment

The history of land loss in American Indian communities is a central issue. Today, different legal statuses of land dictate different jurisdictions as well as financial obligations and advantages to land owners. The most recent chapter in land sovereignty came with the onset of allotment, a process wherein individual tribal members were assigned, or allotted, a specific plot of land, changing tribal land from communal to individual. As these plots were variably taken out of trust, sold, and most recently “bought back” by the tribes, the result is a checkerboard of deed and trust lands. By researching allotment maps, ledgers, and the original stakes used to identify land owners’ claims, we can understand the historical context for many contemporary land issues.

Above:

Allotment stake in Bennett County, SD

Left:

Checkerboarding between trust and deeded lands in Bennett County, SD