Working Effectively with Tribal Governments

Introduction to Tribal Concepts

Other Terms: Checkerboard Land, Restricted Land, Ceded Territory

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Checkerboard Land

"Checkerboard land" is a term that generally refers to a mixture of Indian trust parcels and non-tribal fee simple parcels, which together result in a checkerboard pattern of ownership within reservation boundaries. Checkerboard land patterns are largely a result of the federal allotment statutes of the late 1800s and early 1900s that broke up reservation lands into individual parcels.

Restricted Lands

"Restricted lands" refers to lands that are held in fee simple by tribal members but still have certain restrictions on their title. As a result, they have some characteristics of both fee and trust lands. When dealing with this class of Indian land, federal employees should consult with their agency's legal counsel.

Ceded Territory

"Ceded territory" refers to land located within a reservation's former boundaries (meaning that the original size of the reservation was subsequently reduced), or within a tribe's aboriginal territory (prior to the establishment of any reservation), that has been ceded, or relinquished, by the tribe, usually by treaty.

Tribes may have retained treaty rights to hunt, fish, and/or gather other resources (and the right to regulate members exercising those reserved rights) in ceded territories, as is the case for some Great Lakes or Northwest tribes.

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