An Introduction to American Indian Land Tenure: Mapping the Legal Landscape

5 J. L. Prop. & Soc. 1 (2019)

102 Pages Posted: 25 Feb 2020

See all articles by Jessica A. Shoemaker

Jessica A. Shoemaker

University of Nebraska at Lincoln - College of Law

Date Written: December 30, 2019


This Article provides an introduction to land-related legal issues facing tribal governments and Indigenous peoples in the United States and is intended to encourage deeper and more widespread engagement on these important topics. Forced property law reforms have been used throughout history as this country’s primary tool for implementing its colonial objectives, and today unique property rules continue to apply in Indian country with complex effects—and, often without significant public or scholarly attention. This Article seeks to help close this attention gap by providing an accessible introduction to important American Indian land tenure topics, including both the lessons of historic uses of property law in federal Indian policy and more modern reservation land tenure dynamics. Additional topics include the complex relationship between property and sovereignty in Indian country, the many and varied efforts to resolve historic land and Aboriginal title claims in the United States, and a brief survey of other important land-related legal rights, including the federal duty to consult, the federal trust responsibility, off-reservation use rights, and special protections for certain places of particular importance.

Keywords: property, land tenure, Indigenous, American Indian, land use, trust, reservation, jurisdiction, governance, sovereignty

JEL Classification: K11

Suggested Citation

Shoemaker, Jessica A., An Introduction to American Indian Land Tenure: Mapping the Legal Landscape (December 30, 2019). 5 J. L. Prop. & Soc. 1 (2019) , Available at SSRN:

Jessica A. Shoemaker (Contact Author)

University of Nebraska at Lincoln - College of Law ( email )

103 McCollum Hall
P.O. Box 830902
Lincoln, NE 68583-0902
United States


Do you have negative results from your research you’d like to share?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics