Cabazon, Fond du Lac Band, Ponca Tribe, Quinault Indian Nation, Shoshone-Bannock Tribes to Begin Implementation of Land Buy-Back Program
Published September 16, 2015
WASHINGTON – U.S. Deputy Secretary of the Interior Michael Connor announced Tuesday, September 15, 2015, that the Department has signed agreements with five additional tribal nations to implement the Land Buy-Back Program for Tribal Nations (Buy-Back Program), which facilitates the purchase of individual interests in fractionated trust lands and consolidates ownership for the tribe with jurisdiction.
The tribal nations are the Cabazon Band of Mission Indians in California; the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa in Minnesota; the Ponca Tribe of Indians of Oklahoma; Quinault Indian Nation in Washington; and the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes of the Fort Hall Reservation in Idaho.
The Department has thus far entered into agreements with 25 sovereign tribal nations to cooperatively implement the Buy-Back Program. Each agreement is unique in time, scope and responsibilities, based on the expressed interests of the tribe. The agreements outline coordinated strategies to facilitate education about the Buy-Back Program and reach out to owners with fractionated interests in reservation land. More information and resources for tribal leaders are available at:www.doi.gov/buybackprogram/tribes/preparation.cfm.
“The Cobell Settlement provided no more than 10 years to implement this program, which helps fulfill President Obama’s commitment to strengthen Native American communities,” said Deputy Secretary Connor. “We will meet this ambitious deadline by giving tribal governments the resources and flexibility to carry out the Program in coordination with tribal priorities. Working closely, we can maximize our ability to provide landowners with the information they need to make informed decisions about their land through this voluntary program.”
Since it began making offers in December 2013, the Program has paid more than $660 million to individual landowners and restored the equivalent of approximately 1.3 million acres of land to tribal governments.
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.
“The Fond du Lac Band looks forward to working with the Department of the Interior on the Cobell Land Buy-Back Program,” said Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Chairwoman Karen R. Diver. “Reducing fractionation on our reservation is very important to us and builds on our previous efforts. This program will accelerate the process. The Band will be able to make better resource management decisions, increase economic development and housing opportunities, and strengthen our tribal sovereignty. We have been preparing for this program for the past three years and are excited to partner with the Department of the Interior to continue to solve the problem of land fractionation.”
Cabazon Chairman Douglas Welmas said, “We, the Cabazon government, are very pleased to be working with the federal government through the Cooperative Agreement in order to reclaim our traditional tribal lands as an exercise of our sovereignty.”
“The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes of the Fort Hall reservation have one of the largest problems with fractionated land interests in Indian Country,” stated Fort Hall Business Council Chairman Blaine J. Edmo. “Many of our Indian landowners see little or no economic benefit from these small, undivided interests of land that cannot be utilized due to their highly fractionated states. The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes are committed to a successful Land Back-Back Program. We are here to serve our Indian people, and through our participation we aim to acquire and consolidate land for the preservation, protection and enhancement of our people and reservation community.”
Ponca Tribe Chairman Earl S. Howe, III, added, “Fractionalization of our Tribal Lands has become a problem over the years. The Land Buy-Back Program will definitely help this issue for the tribe, and affected tribal members, which will also help build our land base.”
“The Quinault Indian Reservation was completely allotted, and today, many of those allotments are highly-fractionated,” added Fawn Sharp, President of the Quinault Indian Nation. “We have been committed to dealing with this challenge effectively and efficiently, in a way that will benefit the entire Quinault Nation. We are grateful to the Department of the Interior for making this opportunity available. We hold our lands and resources sacred, and consider it a high priority to consolidate our reservation in a way that maximizes our ability to manage it properly.”
The Buy-Back Program was created to implement the land consolidation component of the Cobell Settlement, which provided $1.9 billion to consolidate fractional land interests across Indian Country. It allows interested individual owners to receive payments for voluntarily selling their land. Interested sellers receive payments directly into their Individual Indian Money (IIM) account, and consolidated interests are immediately transferred to tribal governments and stay in trust for uses benefiting the tribes and their members.
The Department has announced 42 locations where land consolidation activities such as planning, outreach, mapping, mineral evaluations, appraisals or acquisitions are expected to take place through the middle of 2017. These communities represented 83 percent of all outstanding fractional interests across Indian Country.
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 or purchase offers, and learn about financial planning resources. More information and detailed frequently asked questions are available at www.doi.gov/buybackprogram to help individuals make informed decisions about their land.