Law Students to Explain New American Indian Land Law In Community Education Workshops

October 11, 2005

Colorado Law students will conduct two community education workshops in southwest Colorado and the Denver area to explain the impact of a new federal law affecting American Indian land holdings. The soon-to-be implemented federal American Indian Probate Reform Act was passed to stop the division of land resulting from the General Allotment Act of 1887. Many parcels, if they could be split among the owners, would be smaller than the page of an average-sized book. The workshops will be held at or near the Southern Ute and Ute Mountain Ute reservations in southwest Colorado and in metro Denver where more than 30,000 American Indians live. The workshops are aimed at assisting individual tribal members in handling their land interests. Dates of the workshops are yet to be announced. A $4,000 grant from the Colorado Bar Foundation, the charitable arm of the Colorado Bar Association, to the law school's American Indian Law Clinic will fund the workshops. The grant also will fund videotaping of the workshops for broadcast on public television and the publication of a guide to understanding the new law that will be distributed statewide. Congress passed the American Indian Land Probate Reform Act of 2004 to stop the fractionation of tribal lands that resulted from the 1887 law. The act is set to go into effect in April 2006. The General Allotment Act of 1887 divided tribal lands previously held in common into small tracts held in trust by the United States for individual Indian owners. The tracts could be inherited under state law, but lack of access to lawyers, cultural barriers and other factors made Indian wills uncommon and splintered Indian ownership. Many parcels now have hundreds of owners. The American Indian Law Clinic was established in 1992 as an addition to the CU-Boulder School of Law's clinical education program. It is intended to provide quality legal representation to poor clients with specific Indian law-related problems, while also providing students with hands-on experience with Indian law issues. The new guide to understanding the reform act and links to the relevant statutes, agencies and tribal offices will be posted on a variety of American Indian and legal services organizations' Web sites, including the American Indian Law Clinic's at http://www.colorado.edu/law/clinics/ilc. Contact: Jill Tompkins, (303) 735-2194 jill.tompkins@colorado.edu Kirsten Dueck, (303) 492-3124 kirsten.dueck@colorado.edu Dirk Martin, (303) 492-3140