Program works to restore Indian lands to strengthen tribal communities
Published September 8, 2016
WASHINGTON – Deputy Secretary Michael L. Connor announced today that the Interior Department has signed agreements with three tribes – the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Indian Reservation in Washington, the Omaha Tribe of Nebraska, and the Pala Band of Mission Indians in California – to guide implementation of the Land Buy-Back Program for Tribal Nations (Buy-Back Program).
Thus far, the Department has entered into agreements with 36 tribal nations to cooperatively implement the Buy-Back Program. The agreements outline coordinated strategies to facilitate education about the Program to landowners, but are unique in time, scope and responsibilities based on the expressed interests of the tribe.
“Together in partnership with sovereign tribal nations, we are making significant progress toward fulfilling President Obama’s goal of strengthening and investing in tribal communities,” said Deputy Secretary Connor. “This important work is succeeding thanks to great teamwork. We look forward to collaborating with the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Indian Reservation, the Omaha Tribe of Nebraska, and the Pala Band of Mission Indians to make the best of the historic opportunity before us.”
The Buy-Back 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.
Consolidated interests are immediately restored to tribal trust ownership for uses benefiting the reservation community and tribal members. Returning fractionated lands to tribes in trust has enormous potential to improve tribal community resources by increasing home site locations, improving transportation routes, spurring tribal economic development, and preserving traditional cultural or ceremonial sites.
“The Confederated Tribes of the Colville Indian Reservation is pleased to announce that we recently entered into a memorandum of agreement with the Land Buy-Back Program for Tribal Nations,” said Chairman Dr. Michael Marchand. “The Tribes will benefit from the land consolidation, which will ease and improve resource management. The Land-Buy Back Program will offer an increase in economic development, create housing opportunities, and increase tribal sovereignty for our 10,000 members.”
Omaha Tribal Vice-Chairperson Adriana Saunsoci said: “The Omaha Tribe of Nebraska was one of the first Tribes to suffer from the ill-fated allotment policy of the federal government that caused the loss of hundreds of thousands of acres of our land. We are excited about entering into this cooperative agreement and expect that as a result, we will reclaim and consolidate fractionated interests in land on our Reservation leading to enhanced economic self-sufficiency for our tribal members and government.”
“The Pala Band of Mission Indians is pleased to partner with the Department of the Interior’s Land Buy-Back Program in an effort to reduce the number of fractional land interests on the Pala Reservation,” said Robert Smith, Chairman of the Pala Band of Mission Indians. “This Program will be mutually beneficial to individual landowners and to the Tribe – further enabling Pala to manage and use Reservation lands to enhance the Tribal community for years to come.”
There are approximately 245,000 owners of nearly three million fractional interests across Indian Country who are eligible to participate in the Buy-Back Program. Since it began making offers in December 2013, the Program has paid more than $890 million to individual landowners and restored the equivalent of more than 1.6 million acres of land to tribal governments.
The Department has announced an implementation schedule that brings the number of locations planned for the Program to 105, a total that includes more than 96 percent of all landowners with fractional interests and more than 98 percent of both purchasable fractional interests and equivalent acres in Program-eligible areas.
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 update their contact information, ask questions about their land, identify their options, and discuss financial planning resources. Additional information is available at:https://www.doi.gov/buybackprogram.