Federal Policy of Forced Allotment:
The impact of Fractionation
The Dawes Act was repealed in 1934 and viewed as a failed attempt to deal with the “Indian problem”. Then came another piece of federal legislation to deal with the impact of fractionation. In 1934, the Indian Reorganization Act (“IRA”) was approved and seen as a way to stop the further allotment of tribal lands. The purpose of the IRA was to promote self-determination among the tribes by allowing them to draft their own constitutions and govern themselves to a limited extent. This shift in Indian policy was aimed to encourage self-determination, economic development and a revival of so-called “tribalism among the Indians” which came from two areas, one was President Roosevelt’s New Deal and the growing tolerance and respect for traditional aspects of Indian culture. However, the end of allotment did not stop the effect of splintering interests in land being passed through intestacy (not leaving a will) from generation to generation. Interests continued to fractionate because of unsuccessful policies regulating intestate and testate succession. For tribes that adopted the IRA, there was an extended period, pass the 25-year trust period, and interest holders were allowed to devise trust land by leaving a will to other Indians, to the tribes with jurisdiction or to non-Indian heirs or lineal descendants. During the IRA time, procedures for probate and the handling of Indian estates were muddled and tedious. Some tribes did not adopt tribal codes that identified tribal customs when dividing inheritance, sometimes state laws applied, and there was confusion when Dept. of Interior regulations were applied, which were vague and many of its requirements were not mandatory. Ultimately, the need to reform the Indian Probate system came into focus as the problem of fractionation worsened.