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Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Master's Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Environmental and Energy Policy (MS)

Administrative Home Department

Department of Social Sciences

Advisor 1

Melissa F. Baird

Committee Member 1

Carol A. MacLennan

Committee Member 2

Adam M. Wellstead


Access to land is vital in sustaining life, yet accessibility remains unequal. The exclusionary force of mineral policies in the United States allowed settlers to divide land into mineral and surface property. This research asks: Who owns the mineral estate and how does mineral ownership impact individuals? This thesis examines mineral property ownership and policy through a case study in Baraga County, Michigan, located in Ojibwe homelands and within the Treaty of 1842. This thesis suggests, through archival, ethnographic, spatial, and content analysis methods, that the process and policy of mineral records benefit private organizations. Moreover, for Indigenous nations, this system is particularly fraught, as it constrains their treaty rights, sovereignty, and connections with land. I argue that addressing administrative burdens could work in ways to equalize access to property and public information. As this thesis argues, such a reconfiguration is essential to sustaining land rights, resources, and relations at all levels.