Interior Department’s quarterly transfers to Scholarship Fund through land buy-back program continue to grow education opportunities for Native youth
Published July 21, 2016
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of the Interior Wednesday announced that this quarter’s transfer of nearly $500,000 to the Cobell Education Scholarship Fund (Scholarship Fund) brings the total amount contributed so far close to $40 million. The Scholarship Fund provides financial assistance through scholarships to American Indian and Alaska Native students wishing to pursue post-secondary and graduate education and training.
Funded in part by the Land Buy-Back Program for Tribal Nations (Buy-Back Program), the scholarship program is overseen by the Cobell Board of Trustees and administered by Indigenous Education, Inc., a non-profit corporation expressly created to administer the Scholarship Fund. Thus far, approximately $2.2 million has been awarded in graduate and undergraduate scholarships to highly qualified American Indian students.
Based on data gathered by Indigenous Education, the most recent recipients – or Cobell scholars – include 404 undergraduate students and 64 graduate students; representing 89 federally-recognized tribes. Applications and information concerning scholarships for Academic Year 2017-2018 can be found atwww.cobellscholar.org.
“With every new contribution, the scholarship fund will enable increasing numbers of Native American students across Indian Country to gain the advanced education and training that will help them meet the leadership challenges of the 21st century,” said Interior Solicitor Hilary Tompkins, a member of the Navajo Nation, who negotiated the Cobell settlement on behalf of the Interior department. “They are pursuing their dreams, opening doors to new opportunities, preparing themselves for leadership and advancing self-determination for their communities – all thanks to the vision of Elouise Cobell, whose life and legacy inspires and guides this noble initiative.”
Alex Pearl, chairman of the Cobell Board of Trustees, said: “The latest distribution aids our mission of carrying out the vision of Elouise Cobell to enhance educational opportunities for American Indians and Alaskan Native students. With the beginning of the new school year, we are excited to continue awarding the talented students in Indian Country. Our Board understands the financial aid needs in Indian Country are enormous. These transfers provide an important foundation from which to positively impact Native students. We remain committed to creating a uniquely tuned scholarship program attentive to the needs and issues of Native students.”
The Buy-Back Program was created to implement the land consolidation component of the Cobell settlement, which provided $1.9 billion to purchase fractionated interests in trust or restricted land from willing landowners. Consolidated interests are transferred to tribal government ownership for uses benefiting the reservation community and tribal members.
Interior makes quarterly transfers to the Scholarship Fund as a result of the Program’s land sales, up to a total of $60 million. The amount Interior contributes is based on a formula set forth in the Cobell settlement that sets aside a certain amount of funding depending on the value of the fractionated interests sold. These contributions do not reduce the amount that an owner will receive.
Since the Program began making offers in December 2013, more than $760 million has been paid to individual landowners and the equivalent of more than 1.5 million acres of land has been transferred to tribal governments.
Offers are currently outstanding for landowners with fractional land interests at:
Agua Caliente – deadline: August 11, 2016
Navajo Nation – deadline: August 22, 2016
Fort Hall – deadline: August 25, 2016
Quinault – deadline: September 1, 2016
Individual participation in the Buy-Back Program is voluntary. Landowners can contact the Trust Beneficiary Call Center at 888-678-6836 or visit their local Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians (OST) to ask questions about their land or purchase offers, and learn about financial planning resources. More information and detailed frequently asked questions are available at https://www.doi.gov/buybackprogram/FAQ.
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