Interior Department Expands Buy-Back Program Across Indian Country

interiorAfter government-to-government discussions, new schedule includes locations with 96 percent of eligible landowners

Published May 18, 2016

WASHINGTON – Following extensive outreach with tribal leaders and American Indian landowners, Interior Deputy Secretary Michael L. Connor on Tuesday announced an expanded schedule for implementing the Land Buy-Back Program for Tribal Nations (Program) at 63 additional locations from 2018 through mid-2021. Since it began making offers in December 2013, the Program has paid more than $740 million to individual landowners and restored the equivalent of nearly 1.5 million acres of land to tribal governments.

The expansion brings the number of locations planned for the Program to 105, a total that includes more than 96 percent of all landowners with fractionated interests and more than 98 percent of both purchasable fractional interests and equivalent acres in Program-eligible areas. About 245,000 landowners hold nearly three million fractional interests across Indian Country.

“The Buy-Back Program embodies the priorities set forth by the Obama Administration’s goal to build effective partnerships with American Indian communities, promote sustainable economic development and tribal culture, and protect tribal lands,” said Deputy Secretary Connor. “In partnership with tribal governments, this Program is generating new opportunities to work more efficiently, stimulate community dialogue and facilitate land use planning, while ensuring that lands stay in trust for the benefit of tribal nations.”

The Program implements the land consolidation component of the Cobell Settlement, which provided $1.9 billion to purchase fractional interests in trust or restricted land from willing sellers at fair market value within 10 years. Individuals who choose to voluntarily sell their interests will receive payments directly in their Individual Indian Money accounts. Consolidated interests are immediately restored to tribal trust ownership for uses benefiting the reservation community and tribal members.

Informed by early planning activities and tribal engagement in 2013-2014, Interior identified 42 locations in November 2014 where land consolidation activities – such as planning, outreach, mapping, mineral evaluations, appraisals or acquisitions – have either already occurred or are expected to take place through the middle of 2017.

In November 2015, the Program announced a Planning Initiative to assist in the development of the implementation schedule announced today. Through discussions with tribal leaders and events with landowners, the two-pronged Planning Initiative gathered input from tribal governments and landowners. The Program received Expressions of Interest from a significant number of tribal governments and – since the beginning of the Program through the Planning Initiative’s deadline of March 11, 2016 – 37,059 individuals registered as willing sellers.

Because effective planning and coordination take many months, it is critical that the Program begin the process to educate landowners, identify tribal priorities, and build cooperative working relationships. A Program representative will contact each Tribe as planning for the expanded implementation begins at each location.

Decisions about where to schedule implementation were based on a number of factors that were developed through months of government-to-government discussions, including: severity of fractionation; degree of ownership-overlap between reservations; appraisal complexity; tribal readiness and interest; number of owners who have demonstrated an interest in selling fractional interests; and cost and time efficiency.

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell has discussed a need for Interior to work with Congress on a longer-term solution to deal with fractionation, given that the funding and time limits of the Cobell Settlement do not provide enough to consolidate all fractional interests across Indian Country. Secretary Jewell directed the oversight board that manages the Buy-Back Program, led by Deputy Secretary Connor, to undergo a 60 day analysis with the many offices involved in implementation. The board will send options to the Secretary for review to extend the life of the Program so that future participants can benefit and allow the Program to return to locations where implementation has already occurred.

The Program continues to reallocate unused land purchase funds to scheduled locations. This will help determine if remaining resources exist, and where they might be used at additional locations or locations where purchase offers have already been sent. Additionally, interested landowners at locations not scheduled for implementation, or on locations where offers have already been extended, are encouraged to call the Trust Beneficiary Call Center (Call Center) at 888-678-6836 to indicate that they are a willing seller and/or to update contact information.

Registering as a willing seller does not commit you to selling your land, nor does it guarantee an offer will be extended; it merely identifies interest to help advance planning. The Program will re-evaluate its resources and progress by November 2018 to determine if additional locations can be added to the schedule.

Individuals can contact the Call Center or visit their local Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians (OST) or Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) office to learn more about their land and their options – including how the Program works. The Call Center and local OST staff can also help landowners think strategically about how to use funds they may receive through the Program.

For more details about the Program, the Planning Initiative, implementation to date, and the significant economic impact in Indian Country, please see the Program’s 2015 Status Report.

The following is a list of the 63 additional locations added to the Buy-Back Program schedule for implementation from 2018 through mid-2021:

  • Absentee Shawnee Tribe of Indians of Oklahoma
  • Apache Tribe of Oklahoma
  • Blue Lake Rancheria, California
  • Cherokee Nation
  • Cheyenne & Arapaho Tribes, Oklahoma
  • Citizen Potawatomi Nation, Oklahoma
  • Colorado River Indian Tribe of the Colorado River Indian Reservation, Arizona and California
  • Comanche Nation, Oklahoma
  • Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation of Oregon
  • Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma
  • Forest County Potawatomi Community, Wisconsin
  • Fort Independence Indian Community of Paiute Indians of the Fort Independence Reservation, California
  • Habematolel Pomo of Upper Lake, California
  • Ho-Chunk Nation of Wisconsin
  • Hoopa Valley Tribe, California
  • Hopi Tribe of Arizona
  • Kalispel Indian Community of the Kalispel Reservation, Washington
  • Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, Michigan
  • Kickapoo Tribe of Indians of the Kickapoo Reservation in Kansas
  • Kiowa Indian Tribe of Oklahoma
  • Kootenai Tribe of Idaho
  • Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians of Wisconsin
  • Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians of the Lac du Flambeau Reservation of Wisconsin
  • Minnesota Chippewa – Bois Forte Band (Nett Lake)
  • Minnesota Chippewa – Grand Portage Band
  • Minnesota Chippewa – Leech Lake Band
  • Minnesota Chippewa – Mille Lacs Band
  • Minnesota Chippewa – White Earth Band
  • Morongo Band of Mission Indians, California
  • Muckleshoot Indian Tribe
  • Nisqually Indian Tribe
  • Omaha Tribe of Nebraska
  • Otoe-Missouria Tribe of Indians, Oklahoma
  • Pala Band of Luiseno Mission Indians of the Pala Reservation, California
  • Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma
  • Pechanga Band of Luiseno Mission Indians of the Pechanga Reservation, California
  • Pueblo of Laguna, New Mexico
  • Quileute Tribe of the Quileute Reservation, Washington
  • Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians of Wisconsin
  • Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians, Minnesota
  • Rincon Band of Luiseno Mission Indians of the Rincon Reservation, California
  • Sac & Fox Nation of Missouri in Kansas and Nebraska
  • Sac & Fox Nation, Oklahoma
  • Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan
  • Santee Sioux Nation, Nebraska
  • Skokomish Indian Tribe
  • Spirit Lake Tribe, North Dakota
  • Spokane Tribe of the Spokane Reservation
  • Stockbridge Munsee Community, Wisconsin
  • Suquamish Indian Tribe of the Port Madison Reservation
  • Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation
  • The Chickasaw Nation
  • The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma
  • The Muscogee (Creek) Nation
  • The Seminole Nation of Oklahoma
  • Tohono O’odham Nation of Arizona
  • Tulalip Tribes of Washington
  • Upper Sioux Community, Minnesota
  • Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah & Ouray Reservation, Utah
  • Ute Mountain Tribe of the Ute Mountain Reservation, Colorado, New Mexico & Utah
  • Walker River Paiute Tribe of the Walker River Reservation, Nevada
  • Yurok Tribe of the Yurok Reservation, California
  • Zuni Tribe of the Zuni Reservation, New Mexico

A full list of the 105 locations now identified for implementation, can be found at:https://www.doi.gov/buybackprogram/program-implementation-schedule.

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