What is ILTF?

The Indian Land Tenure Foundation (ILTF) is a national, community-based organization serving American Indian nations and people in the recovery and control of their rightful homelands. ILTF’s governing board consists of Indian landowners, tribal representatives and those with a lifelong commitment to Indian land issues and rights.

ILTF works to promote education, increase cultural awareness, create economic opportunity, and reform the legal and administrative systems that prevent Indian people from owning and controlling their reservation lands.

ILTF makes grants to nonprofit organizations and tribal entities whose work aligns with our mission, encompasses one or more of our four strategic areas, and directly benefits Native people.

Where does ILTF get its funding?

As a community foundation, ILTF serves both as a grantmaking organization and as a vehicle through which other organizations and individuals can support our mission. In 2001, ILTF received a $20 million endowment from the Northwest Area Foundation to begin operation. Since then, ILTF has received contributions from a variety of sources, including foundations, Indian nations, businesses and individuals. Because the income we earn through investments and grants covers our general operating expenses, ILTF distributes 100 percent of donor contributions to support program initiatives and grantmaking efforts.

What kinds of projects does ILTF fund?

ILTF funds projects that support its mission in the recovery and retention of Indian lands with a focus on four strategic areas: Education, Cultural Awareness, Economic Opportunity and Legal Reform. If you have an idea for a land-related project that can benefit Native nations and people, please share it with us. All projects must promote activities that directly benefit Native people and strengthen their relationship to their homelands. Activities that are not eligible for funding include:

  • Advocacy and lobbying efforts to influence legislation
  • Endowments
  • Land purchases
  • Benefits, fundraisers, walk-a-thons, telethons and galas
  • Scholarships, tuition assistance or other direct funding to individuals
  • Special events, except when the event is a key strategy in a continuum of efforts to achieve community goals in the Foundation’s strategy areas

ILTF will consider your idea and follow up with you if we are interested in learning more. As you might expect, we receive more requests than we are able to fund and cannot respond to every idea submitted. Email info@iltf.org to submit your idea.

Who is eligible for funding from ILTF?

ILTF accepts grant proposals from tribal, local and state governments; nonprofit organizations with a 501(c)(3) designation; and schools, universities and colleges with 501(c)(3) designation.

Where can I find information about the Cobell class action lawsuit and settlement?

The most up-to-date information can be found on the Cobell Settlement website (cobellsettlement.com.)

I own trust land but I haven’t received a payment from the BIA in a couple of years. Who should I contact?

You should contact the Office of the Special Trustee (OST) to find out if you’re on its “whereabouts unknown” list. You can use the OST’s online search tool or call the OST Trust Beneficiary Call Center at 888-678-6836.

I want to write a will. Where do I start?

Historically, all wills were processed by the local BIA office. As of April 29, 2005, the BIA no longer provides this assistance. Nevertheless, your local BIA office is still a good place to start when gathering information and inquiring about estate planning for trust land and assets. The BIA office may make referrals to other organizations and attorneys who can draft a will for you. Also inquire with your tribe to see if a tribal probate code may affect your trust assets.

Another important item to note is that there are separate wills required for trust assets and real property. Trust assets include trust land, restricted land and Individual Indian Money (IIM) accounts. Real property is something affixed to the land such as the house and any other personal property.

What can I do to prevent the further fractionation of ownership on my reservation?

  • Write a will: This is the most important thing an Indian person can do to protect trust land from fractionation and from going out of Indian control. If you do not write a will, you will have no control over who receives your property after you pass and fractionated ownership continues, with heirs receiving ever-smaller undivided interests in the title to land rather than individual pieces of land. By writing a will, you can choose who receives your property and how much is distributed to each person. You can help stop fractionation by giving all of the land to one person, or by giving land to people in areas where they already own land.

Other ways you can help stop fractionation include:

  • Gift conveyance: Gift deed your undivided interests to your tribe or another Native person.
  • Sale of undivided interests: Sell your undivided interests to your tribe or another Native person.
  • Land consolidation or exchange: Consolidate your land holdings by exchanging multiple interests with your tribe.

My mother received a letter from her sister asking her to sign a lease agreement. What does it mean? Should she sign it?

As a general rule, one should always get more information before signing anything. That means knowing more about the other allottees on this allotment, what the lease is for and the duration of the lease. Contact the local BIA agency for this information or the Office of Special Trustee Call Center at 888-678-6836 and request assistance. Make sure to have your identification materials readily available. The Call Center system creates a check and balance to avoid unnecessary delays in getting information.

Do not assume that since someone is pushing you to sign a lease that it is in your best interest. Find out more. Some lease agreements can be for grazing for a set number of years while other leases could be for rights of way and for as long as 50 years or more. As a recipient of lease income, you need to consider all information before signing a lease, including fair market value of the land.

My father passed away and I received a notice that I own his land. I would like to build on this land. What do I need to do?

When your father’s land was originally allotted, it was put into “trust” by the federal government. This gave the Indian landowner the right to live on the land and use it. However, ownership was still with the federal government and the allottee owned “interest” in the allotment. At the passing of this first generation allottee, the interest in the land was divided among the surviving heirs with each individual attaining a percentage of interest in the allotment. This process, called fractionation, would have continued with each passing generation until your father received his “undivided interest” in the allotment. Depending on individual circumstances, there could be several generations prior to your notice of ownership. In some instances there are well over 1,000 individuals who share “interest” in one common allotment. In order for you to do anything personally with this land, you will need to work with the local BIA office and the other allotment owners. If you want to develop the land or do almost anything with it, 51 percent of the undivided interest holders would have to be in agreement.

Your first step is to write to the local BIA office and request information on your undivided interest in this allotment. You will need to prove that you are the landowner, so include all identifying information. Another option would be to call the Office of Special Trustee Call Center at 888-678-6836 and request assistance in identifying the specifics to your ownership interest in the allotment.