What is the Federal Indian Trust Responsibility?
The Federal Indian Trust Responsibility is a legal obligation under which the United States has charged itselfwith moral obligations of the highest responsibility and trust toward American Indian tribes (Seminole Nation v.United States, 1942; Cherokee Nation v. Georgia, 1831). Over the years, the trust doctrine has been the centerof numerous other Supreme Court cases and it is one of the most important principles in federal American Indian law.
The federal Indian trust responsibility holds the United States legally responsible for the protection of tribal lands,assets, resources, and treaty rights. The Supreme Court suggests that the Federal Indian Trust Responsibility entailslegal duties, moral obligations, and the fulfillment of understandings and expectations that have arisen over theentire course of dealings between the U.S. and the tribes.
The federal Indian trust duty is the basis of a current longstanding lawsuit brought by individual American Indianlandholders against the federal government. The individual American Indian landholders assert that the federalgovernment breached its trust duty to protect their assets, provide an accounting of their assets, and provide themthe correct compensation for the leasing of their lands (see www.indiantrust.com for more information).
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