Skip to main content
U.S. flag signifying that this is a United States Federal Government website
An official website of the U.S. government

Revenue from natural resources on Native American land

Natural resources are increasingly a key source of income for many Native American tribes and individuals.
Much like federal revenue, revenue from natural resource extraction on Native American land is collected in each phase of the production process (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 rental on a least prior to BLM notice of first production.After production, ONRR collects, accounts for, and deposits rentals, royalties, and compliance-based collections. BIA collects other collections, such as payment for surface damages.
Solid mineralsBIA bills, collects, and accounts for bonuses.BIA bills, collects, and accounts for rental prior to production.BIA bills, collects, and accounts for rentals post-production. Companies submit royalty and production reports to ONRR, but ONRR may not collect royalty payments unless BIA requests it. Companies deposit payments into OST- or Native-American-owned lockboxes or mail checks to individual allottees. BIA collects other collections, such as water payments or payments for surface damages.
Exceptions exist to this process: notably, tribal lease direct payment, when a tribe collects and accounts for all payments except the bonus. Additionally, mineral owners of allotted leases may request that payments be made directly to them. BIA approves or denies these direct pay requests. The amounts paid for extraction on tribal lands vary by tribe and are not publicly available.
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 Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians (OST). When deposits are made into an OST-owned lockbox, OST deposits the funds into a trust account. When deposits are made into a tribal-owned lockbox, the tribe receives the funds directly.
ONRR provides a financial distribution report called an Explanation of Payment report (EOP) to tribes. For allottees, ONRR provides the collection information to BIA to create the EOP which outlines the distribution for each mineral owner. OST then transfers funds from the OST treasury account to either the mineral owner’s individual account or make a payment via check or automated clearing house payment to the mineral estate owner.

Revenue data

The federal government may only release information about natural resource extraction and revenue in aggregate across all Native American lands. This is because of confidentiality and proprietary constraints on Native American data. These constraints arise from treaties, laws, and regulations that the government consistently and uniformly applies.

Audits and assurances

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