Division of Real Estate Services

During the last two centuries, Congress ratified numerous treaties and enacted dozens of laws that dealt directly with the lives and property of American Indians and Alaska Natives. While federal trust obligations lie at the heart of the Federal-Indian relationship, the scope of the United States’ responsibilities to Indian people extends beyond basic trust obligations to include a wide range of services delivered in concert with the principle of Indian self-determination.

More recently, the HEARTH Act of 2012, H.R. 205 (Act), allows Indian tribes to enter into certain leases without approval from the Secretary of the Interior. Another step toward true Indian Self-Determination. The Act amended 25 U.S.C. § 415, more commonly referred to as the Long-Term Leasing Act, approved August 9, 1955, provides authority for tribes to negotiate and approve leases on tribally owned and tribal interests in allotted lands without Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) approval.

The Division of Real Estate Services (DRES) protects and maintains the integrity of trust lands and trust resources through preservation of these resources. The Central California Agency provides technical guidance and oversight to 55 Reservations and Rancherias within its geographic jurisdiction, assisting the negotiation of P.L. 93-638 contracts for realty related functions; litigation support; review of real property initiatives; and review and approval of numerous real estate services transactions, e.g., acquisition, disposal, surface and sub-surface lease and land use planning proposal transactions, rights-of-way, exchanges, partitions, patents in fee, and approve real estate transactions for Indian Tribes who have contracted the program. In addition, the Agency coordinates environmental studies, and initiation of rights protection issues such as trespass and land damages.

Division of Probate and Estate Services

The primary mission of the Division of Probate and Estate Services (DPES) is to compile inventories of Indian Trust assets and family information, and to coordinate the timely distribution of trust assets with the Office of Hearings and Appeals, Land Title and Records Office and the Office of the Special Trustee.

The DPES gathers information regarding decedent’s family and property and prepares it for adjudication by the Office of Hearings and Appeals (OHA). After OHA issues a probate order the DPES works with other trust offices, such as the Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians and the Land Titles and Records Office to distribute the assets.

Passage of the Indian Land Consolidation Act (ILCA) of 2000 allowed the DPES and the probate function improvement for proper beneficiary management of trust and restricted property. The American Indian Probate Reform Act of 2004 (AIPRA), as amended, changed how trust property are distributed and managed by the federal government. The AIPRA had significant amendments that drastically changed how the Federal government operated the DPES program. One major purpose of AIPRA was to preserve the trust status of Indian lands and to reduce the number of small fractionated landowner interests. Both laws have had a major influence over how Interior administers its fiduciary trust obligation in the management of trust lands on behalf of trust beneficiaries.

For further information or technical assistance please contact the Branch of Real Estate Services at (279) 444-0323