Move Reflects Significant Input and Encouragement from Indian Country
WASHINGTON – Interior Deputy Secretary Michael Connor Monday announced that more than $230 million in purchase offers have been sent to nearly 12,000 landowners with fractional interests at the Fort Belknap and Fort Peck Indian Reservations in Montana. The purchase offers were extended as part of the Land Buy-Back Program for Tribal Nations (Buy-Back Program), which implements the land consolidation component of the Cobell Settlement and offers willing sellers fair market value to consolidate fractional interests for better use.
Monday’s announcement reflects the significant feedback and requests from tribal nations that Interior has received in ongoing discussions with tribal governments and individuals since the Buy-Back Program began. Specifically, the Buy-Back Program is now making offers on fractionated tracts of land that have improvements – buildings or structures, including residential homes.
“Tribal leaders and landowners have consistently communicated their frustration about the inability to sell and consolidate fractionated interests merely because a structure was on their tract,” said Deputy Secretary Connor. “Today’s offers reflect our commitment to thoughtful and open dialogue with Indian Country to set policies and procedures that keep our promise of a flexible and transparent implementation of the Cobell Settlement.”
Interested sellers have 45 days – until July 18, 2015 for Fort Belknap and July 30, 2015 for Fort Peck – to return accepted offers in the pre-paid postage envelopes provided.
While improvements themselves will not be acquired through Buy-Back Program offers, their existence will be considered in determining the fair market value of the underlying tract of land. Offers on tracts with improvements will only be made if a lease is recorded in the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) title system or, in the case of tracts without a recorded lease, if the tribal government approves a resolution requesting that the Buy-Back Program make offers on those tracts and indicating that the tribe will provide lease opportunities to individuals living on the land. All Buy-Back Program transfers into tribal trust ownership are subject to the terms of existing leases and encumbrances on the land.
Landowners who do not have a lease should contact their local BIA Realty Office to inquire about the process of obtaining a lease prior to accepting a Buy-Back Program purchase offer. Further information on this policy is included in frequently asked questions/answers online at:http://www.doi.gov/buybackprogram/landowners/upload/Frequently-Asked-Questions.pdf.
Individuals who choose to sell their fractional interests receive payments directly into their Individual Indian Money (IIM) accounts. Consolidated interests are then immediately restored to tribal trust ownership for uses benefiting the reservation community and tribal members.
Since December 2013, the Buy-Back Program has paid nearly $460 million to individual landowners and restored the equivalent of more than 750,000 acres of land to tribal governments.
Offers are also currently pending at:
Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation (deadline: TODAY, June 8)
Umatilla Indian Reservation (deadline: June 12)
Cheyenne River Indian Reservation (deadline: June 29)
Fort Belknap will hold a Buy-Back event on June 10, 2015, at the Red Whip Community Center from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Landowners should contact 406-353-2314 to learn more or with any questions.
Fort Peck will hold a Buy-Back event on June 24, 2015, at the Poplar Cultural Center from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Landowners should contact 406-768-2469 to learn more or with any questions.
Landowners can also contact Interior’s Trust Beneficiary Call Center at 888-678-6836 to ask questions about their purchase offers and learn about financial planning resources. Individuals can also visit their local Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians (OST) or BIA office, or find more information athttp://www.doi.gov/buybackprogram/landowners in order to make informed decisions about their land.
The Buy-Back Program contributes a percentage of Program sales – up to $60 million – to the Cobell Education Scholarship Fund, which will make financial assistance available to American Indian and Alaska Native students wishing to pursue post-secondary and graduate education and training. This contribution is in addition to the amounts paid to individual sellers, so it does not reduce the amount landowners receive for their interests. The Scholarship Fund is administered by the American Indian Graduate Center. For more information, please visithttp://www.aigcs.org.