Indian Trust Fund Q&As

AIMD/OGC-97-23R: Published: Dec 10, 1996. Publicly Released: Dec 10, 1996.

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Linda M. Calbom
(202) 512-8341


Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800

Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on Indian trust fund settlement issues. GAO noted that: (1) the Secretary of the Interior long had authority under treaties with individual tribes to invest tribal funds, and did so routinely; (2) in 1918, Congress directed the Secretary to segregate the common funds of any Indian tribe, which were susceptible to segregation, and to credit an equal share to each member of the tribe; (3) as of September 30, 1996, the Department of the Interior's Office of Trust Funds Management was administering almost 317,000 Individual Indian Money (IIM) accounts; (4) the fractionated heirship problem arises from the large number of fractional land and lease ownership interests that currently exist, the substantial increase of such interests over time, and the administrative burden associated with maintaining an increasing number of small accounts to record fractionated interest income; (5) the government can contract with the private sector for trust management and land records and systems planning services as long as the Secretary of the Interior, as the fiduciary, maintains management responsibility; and (6) GAO has long raised serious concerns about the ability to reconcile tribal and IIM accounts and concluded that if follow-up meetings with tribes do not resolve concerns about account balances, the legislated settlement process could be used as a framework for resolving disagreements about account balances.

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