The late Elouise Cobell met President Obama in Oval Office of the White House
Contributions from Land Buy-Back Program help fund opportunities for American
Indian and Alaska Native students
Published January 7, 2016
– With its newest contribution, the U.S. Department of the Interior announced today that it has transferred $4 million to the Cobell Education Scholarship Fund (Scholarship Fund), bringing the total transferred funds to nearly $35 million. The Scholarship Fund — funded in part by the Land Buy-Back Program for Tribal Nations (Buy-Back Program) and authorized by the Cobell Settlement — provides financial assistance through scholarships to American Indian and Alaska Native students wishing to pursue post-secondary and graduate education, and training.
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.
To date, the Buy-Back Program has paid more than $730 million to individual landowners and restored the equivalent of nearly 1.5 million acres of land to tribal governments. Interior makes quarterly transfers to the Scholarship Fund as a result of Program’s land sales, up to a total of $60 million. The amount contributed 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.
“The Interior Department is committed to taking meaningful steps to help fulfill the President’s goal of investing in the future of tribal nations,” said Interior Solicitor Hilary Tompkins, who negotiated the Settlement on behalf of the Department of the Interior. “These scholarship funds help us meet that commitment by putting a down payment on the future of Indian Country and investing in the success of Native youth.”