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Trust Principles




The Secretary of the Interior’s trust principles were first issued by Secretary Babbitt in April 2000 with Secretarial Order 3215. They were eventually incorporated into the Departmental Manual.

Trust Principles. It is the policy of the Department of the Interior to discharge, without limitation, the Secretary’s Indian trust responsibility with a high degree of skill, care, and loyalty. The proper discharge of the Secretary’s trust responsibilities requires that persons who manage Indian trust assets:

  1. Protect and preserve Indian trust assets from loss, damage, unlawful alienation, waste, and depletion;
  2. Assure that any management of Indian trust assets that the Secretary has an obligation to undertake promotes the interest of the beneficial owner and supports, to the extent it is consistent with the Secretary’s trust responsibility, the beneficial owner’s intended use of the assets;
  3. Enforce the terms of all leases or other agreements that provide for the use of trust assets, and take appropriate steps to remedy trespass on trust or restricted lands;
  4. Promote tribal control and self-determination over tribal trust lands and resources;
  5. Select and oversee persons who manage Indian trust assets;
  6. Confirm that tribes that manage Indian trust assets pursuant to contracts and compacts authorized by the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act, 25 U.S.C. 450, et seq., protect and prudently manage Indian trust assets;
  7. Provide oversight and review of the performance of the Secretary’s trust responsibility, including Indian trust asset and investment management programs, operational systems, and information systems;
  8. Account for and timely identify, collect, deposit, invest, and distribute income due or held on behalf of beneficial owners;
  9. Maintain a verifiable system of records that is capable, at a minimum, of identifying: (1) the location, the beneficial owners, any legal encumbrances (i.e., leases, permits, etc.), the user of the resource, the rents and monies paid, if any, and the value of trust or restricted lands and resources; (2) dates of collections, deposits, transfers, disbursements, third party obligations (i.e., court ordered child support, judgments, etc.), amount of earnings, investment instruments and closing of all trust fund accounts; (3) documents pertaining to actions taken to prevent or compensate for any diminishment of the Indian trust assets; and (4) documents that evidence the Department’s actions regarding the management and disposition of Indian trust assets;
  10. Establish and maintain a system of records that permits beneficial owners to obtain information regarding their Indian trust assets in a timely manner and protect the privacy of such information in accordance with applicable statutes;
  11. Invest tribal and individual Indian trust funds to make the trust account reasonably productive for the beneficial owner consistent with market conditions existing at the time the investment is made;
  12. Communicate with beneficial owners regarding the management and administration of Indian trust assets; and
  13. Protect treaty-based fishing, hunting, gathering, and similar rights of access and resource use on traditional tribal lands.

Last Updated: 08/03/2012