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The Government’s Role as Trustee and Sovereign

Learn about the government’s rights and obligations concerning Indian property.


I. The Government as Trustee and Sovereign

The federal government has a unique relationship with Indian land. The government serves as a trustee of Indian land but is also a sovereign with control over the Indian land in its territory. Even the United States Supreme Court couldn’t reconcile the two roles of the federal government. In the early twentieth century, the Court issued opinions with conflicting standards that govern the taking of Indian land.

In 1903, the Court held in Lone Wolf...