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Revenue from Natural Resources on Native American Land

Natural resources are a key source of income for many Native American tribes and individuals.

Natural resource extraction on Native American land generates revenue much like it does on federal land. Each phase of the production process can result in revenue for the Native American resource owners. For instance, companies pay bonuses to secure rights, rents during exploration, and royalties once production begins.

Revenue collection

Several organizations within the Department of the Interior have roles and responsibilities in collecting revenue from production on Native American land:
ResourceStage of Production
Securing a lease or claimPre-productionDuring production
Fluid mineralsBIA bills, collects, and accounts for bonuses.BIA bills, collects, and accounts for rent on a lease prior to BLM notice of first production.After production starts, ONRR collects, accounts for, and deposits rents, royalties, and compliance-based collections. BIA collects other revenues, such as payment for surface damages.
Solid mineralsBIA bills, collects, and accounts for bonuses.BIA bills, collects, and accounts for rent prior to production.BIA bills, collects, and accounts for rent during production. Companies submit royalty and production reports to ONRR, but ONRR may not collect royalty payments unless BIA requests it. Companies deposit payments into BTFA or Native-American-owned lockboxes or mail checks to individual allottees. BIA collects other revenues, such as payments for water or surface damages.
Exceptions exist to this process. For example, a tribe can collect and account for all payments except the bonus. This is known as tribal lease direct payment. Additionally, individual mineral owners (allottees) may request that payments be made directly to them. Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) approves or denies these direct pay requests. The amounts paid for extraction on tribal lands vary by tribe and are not available to the public.

In the case of an IMDA agreement, the tribe collects taxes and non-trust revenue.

Revenue distribution

When the federal government collects payments, they're generally deposited into trust accounts managed by the Bureau of Trust Funds Administration (BTFA). When deposits are made into a BTFA-owned lockbox, BTFA deposits the funds into a trust account. When deposits are made into a tribal-owned lockbox, the tribe receives the funds directly.

Office of Natural Resources Revenue (ONRR) provides a financial distribution report called an Explanation of Payment (EOP) to tribes. For allottees, ONRR provides the collection information to BIA to create the EOP. The report outlines the distribution for each mineral owner. BTFA then transfers funds from the BTFA treasury account to the mineral owner’s individual account or pays the owner via check or automated clearing house.

Revenue data

The federal government may only release information about natural resource extraction and revenue in aggregate across all Native American lands. Specific data on Native American revenues is confidential and proprietary. Treaties, laws, and regulations dictate what data the government can release.

Audits and assurances

Native American revenue data, like federal revenue data, is subject to standards, audits, and assurances. These include: