NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


October 15, 2004

American Indian reservations are getting an economic boost from an unlikely source: sprawl. With land hard to come by in some municipalities, developers are eyeing reservations because of their lower tax rates and lack of red tape. Perhaps most importantly, many tribes have also revised their political and legal institutions, making them virtually no different than working with any other municipality, says the Wall Street Journal.

Renting out land to investors has been a boon to tribal governments and communities, providing employment opportunities for members and bolstering the incomes of the elderly landlords, many of whom don?t have pension funds. According to the Journal:

  • Nationwide, leases on tribal land and land owned by tribal members generated about $42 million in 2003, up from nearly $28 million in 2000.
  • The tribes in Arizona alone generated nearly $21 million in income from leases in 2003.

The land that makes up the 331 reservations in the United States is owned by 567 federally recognized tribes or individual American Indians. However, the 55 million acres held in trust by the U.S. government for Indian tribes cannot be sold to non-tribal entities, meaning outside companies must lease the land from landowners.

Source: Sheila Muto, "Development Grows at Indian Reservations," Wall Street Journal, October 6, 2004.

For Journal text (subscription required),,SB109702029517137359-search,00.html


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