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Rezo Bragin
Rezo Bragin


The total area of all reservations is ,56,200,000 acres (22,700,000 ha; 87,800 sq mi; 227,000 km2)[1] approximately 2.3% of the total area of the United States and about the size of the state of Idaho. While most reservations are small compared to the average U.S. state, twelve Indian reservations are larger than the state of Rhode Island. The largest reservation, the Navajo Nation Reservation, is similar in size to the state of West Virginia. Reservations are unevenly distributed throughout the country, the majority being situated west of the Mississippi River and occupying lands that were first reserved by treaty (Indian Land Grants) from the public domain.[5]



Because recognized Native American nations possess tribal sovereignty, albeit of a limited degree, laws within tribal lands may vary from those of the surrounding and adjacent states.[6] For example, these laws can permit casinos on reservations located within states which do not allow gambling, thus attracting tourism. The tribal council generally has jurisdiction over the reservation, not the U.S. state it is located in or the U.S. federal government. Different reservations have different systems of government, which may or may not replicate the forms of government found outside the reservation. Most Native American reservations were established by the federal government but a small number, mainly in the East, owe their origin to state recognition.[7]

The term "reservation" is a legal designation. It comes from the conception of the Native American nations as independent sovereigns at the time the U.S. Constitution was ratified. Thus, early peace treaties (often signed under conditions of duress or fraud), in which Native American nations surrendered large portions of their land to the United States, designated parcels which the nations, as sovereigns, "reserved" to themselves, and those parcels came to be called "reservations".[8][9] The term remained in use after the federal government began to forcibly relocate nations to parcels of land to which they often had no historical or cultural connection. Compared to other population centers in the U.S., reservations are disproportionately located on or near toxic sites hazardous to the health of those living or working in close proximity, including nuclear testing grounds and contaminated mines.[10]

Today the majority of American Indians and Alaska Natives live outside the reservations, mainly in the larger western cities such as Phoenix and Los Angeles.[11][12] In 2012, there were over 2.5 million Native Americans, with 1 million living on reservations.[13]

The first reservation was established in southern New Jersey on 29 August 1758. It was called Brotherton Indian Reservation[15] and also Edgepillock[16] or Edgepelick.[17] The area was 3,284 acres (13.29 km2).[16] Today it is called Indian Mills in Shamong Township.[16][17]

Indian Treaties, and Laws and Regulations Relating to Indian Affairs (1825) was a document signed by President Andrew Jackson[20] in which he states that "we have placed the land reserves in a better state for the benefit of society" with approval of indigenous reservations prior to 1850.[21] The letter is signed by Isaac Shelby and Jackson. It discusses several regulations regarding indigenous people of America and the approval of indigenous segregation and the reservation system.

President Martin Van Buren negotiated a treaty with the Saginaw Tribe of Chippewas in 1837 to build a lighthouse. The President of the United States of America was directly involved in the creation of new treaties regarding Indian Reservations before 1850. Van Buren stated that indigenous reservations are "all their reserves of land in the state of Michigan, on the principle of said reserves being sold at the public land offices for their benefit and the actual proceeds being paid to them."[22] The agreement dictated that the indigenous tribe sell their land to build a lighthouse.[22]

A treaty signed by John Forsyth, the Secretary of State on behalf of Van Buren, also dictates where indigenous peoples must live in terms of the reservation system in America between the Oneida People in 1838. This treaty allows the indigenous peoples five years on a specific reserve "the west shores of Saganaw bay".[23] The creation of reservations for indigenous people of America could be as little as a five-year approval before 1850. Article two of the treaty claims "the reserves on the river Angrais and at Rifle river, of which said Indians are to have the usufruct and occupancy for five years." Indigenous people had restraints pushed on them by the five year allowance.

Scholarly author Buck Woodard used executive papers from Governor William H. Cabell in his article, "Indian Land sales and allotment in Antebellum Virginia" to discuss Indigenous reservations in America before 1705, specifically in Virginia.[24] He claims "the colonial government again recognized the Nottoway's land rights by treaty in 1713, at the conclusion of the Tuscaro War."[24] The indigenous peoples of America had land treaty agreements as early as 1713.[24]

One example was the Five Civilized Tribes, who were removed from their native lands in the southern United States and moved to modern-day Oklahoma, in a mass migration that came to be known as the Trail of Tears. Some of the lands these tribes were given to inhabit following the removals eventually became Indian reservations.

In 1851, the United States Congress passed the Indian Appropriations Act which authorized the creation of Indian reservations in modern-day Oklahoma. Relations between settlers and natives had grown increasingly worse as the settlers encroached on territory and natural resources in the West.[34]

In 1868, President Ulysses S. Grant pursued a "Peace Policy" as an attempt to avoid violence.[35] The policy included a reorganization of the Indian Service, with the goal of relocating various tribes from their ancestral homes to parcels of lands established specifically for their inhabitation. The policy called for the replacement of government officials by religious men, nominated by churches, to oversee the Indian agencies on reservations in order to teach Christianity to the native tribes. The Quakers were especially active in this policy on reservations.[36]

Many tribes ignored the relocation orders at first and were forced onto their limited land parcels. Enforcement of the policy required the United States Army to restrict the movements of various tribes. The pursuit of tribes in order to force them back onto reservations led to a number of wars with Native Americans which included some massacres. The most well-known conflict was the Sioux War on the northern Great Plains, between 1876 and 1881, which included the Battle of Little Bighorn. Other famous wars in this regard included the Nez Perce War and the Modoc War, which marked the last conflict officially declared a war.

In 1887, Congress undertook a significant change in reservation policy by the passage of the Dawes Act, or General Allotment (Severalty) Act. The act ended the general policy of granting land parcels to tribes as-a-whole by granting small parcels of land to individual tribe members. In some cases, for example, the Umatilla Indian Reservation, after the individual parcels were granted out of reservation land, the reservation area was reduced by giving the "excess land" to white settlers. The individual allotment policy continued until 1934 when it was terminated by the Indian Reorganization Act.

For the following 20 years, the U.S. government invested in infrastructure, health care, and education on the reservations. Likewise, over two million acres (8,000 km2) of land were returned to various tribes. Within a decade of Collier's retirement the government's position began to swing in the opposite direction. The new Indian Commissioners Myers and Emmons introduced the idea of the "withdrawal program" or "termination", which sought to end the government's responsibility and involvement with Indians and to force their assimilation.

Because Federally-recognized Native American tribes possess limited tribal sovereignty, they are able to exercise the right of self-governance, including but are not limited to the ability to pass laws, regulate power and energy, create treaties, and hold tribal court hearings.[37] For this reason laws on tribal lands may vary from those of the surrounding area.[6] The laws passed can, for example, permit legal casinos on reservations. The tribal council, not the local government or the United States federal government, often has jurisdiction over reservations. Different reservations have different systems of government, which may or may not replicate the forms of government found outside the reservation.[38]

With the establishment of reservations, tribal territories diminished to a fraction of original areas and indigenous customary practices of land tenure sustained only for a time, and not in every instance. Instead, the federal government established regulations that subordinated tribes to the authority, first, of the military, and then of the Bureau (Office) of Indian Affairs.[39] Under federal law, the government patented reservations to tribes, which became legal entities that at later times have operated in a corporate manner. Tribal tenure identifies jurisdiction over land-use planning and zoning, negotiating (with the close participation of the Bureau of Indian Affairs) leases for timber harvesting and mining.[40]

Tribal members may utilize a number of resources held in tribal tenures such as grazing range and some cultivable lands. They may also construct homes on tribally held lands. As such, members are tenants-in-common, which may be likened to communal tenure. Even if some of this pattern emanates from pre-reservation tribal customs, generally the tribe has the authority to modify tenant-in-common practices.

With the General Allotment Act (Dawes), 1887, the government sought to individualize tribal lands by authorizing allotments held in individual tenure.[41] Generally, the allocation process led to grouping family holdings and, in some cases, this sustained pre-reservation clan or other patterns. There had been a few allotment programs ahead of the Dawes Act. However, the vast fragmentation of reservations occurred from the enactment of this act up to 1934, when the Indian Reorganization Act was passed. However, Congress authorized some allotment programs in the ensuing years, such as on the Palm Springs/Agua Caliente Indian Reservation in California.[42] 041b061a72


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