New guidance note cites Geographic Information System as a tool for back-to-the-land strategies

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Researchers from the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development released a policy brief Oct. 20 detailing how Geographic Information System (GIS) techniques can be used in back-to-the-landing efforts across the Indian country.

The report notes that six federal agencies currently manage about a third of the land surrounding reservations that once belonged to Indigenous nations.

The use of geographic information systems helped the authors identify public and/or protected lands in relation to current and historic reserve boundaries. Between 1889 and 1890, Congress ceded approximately 13 million acres of reservation land to settlers through the General Allotment Act which authorized the President to divide reservation land.

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The GIS can show the extent of land return opportunities, including land that is: owned by federal or state governments; managed by the federal government or by the state within the current limits of the external reserves; existing within the former boundaries of the reserve; near or bordering current reserve lands; or protected areas designated for conservation management.

“Identifying where these plots are is an important first step for tribes and government agencies to begin developing land-return strategies,” wrote authors Miriam Jorgensen, research director of the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development. (Harvard Project), and Laura Taylor, Harvard Project. researcher.

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