The late Elouise Cobell met President Obama in Oval Office of the White House
Published January 12, 2017
Contributions from Tribal Land Buy-Back Program help fund opportunities for American Indian and Alaska Native students
WASHINGTON – The Department of the Interior on Wednesday announced that an additional $7.9 million has been transferred to the Cobell Education Scholarship Fund (Scholarship Fund), bringing the total amount contributed so far to more than $47 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 Scholarship Fund is overseen by the Cobell Board of Trustees. It is administered by Indigenous Education, Inc., a non-profit corporation expressly created to administer the scholarship program.
“Our hope is that these young people will not be forced to rethink their decision to pursue an education because they are worried about whether they can afford the tuition and fees necessary to attend post-secondary and graduate institutions,” said Deputy Secretary of the Interior Department Michael L. Connor. “Through contributions from the Land Buy-Back Program, the Scholarship Fund is helping the next generation of Native American and Alaska Native students reach their goals and attain an education that will make them competitive in the 21st Century workforce and beyond.”
The Cobell Board of Trustees has reported that to date, nearly 1,800 scholarships totaling more than $5.25 million have been awarded to almost 1,000 Native American students for undergraduate and graduate study. The scholarship awards are $5,000 per semester for undergraduates and $10,000 per semester for graduate and doctoral students. Applications and information concerning scholarships can be found at www.cobellscholar.org.
Alex Pearl, chairman of the Cobell Board of Trustees, said: “The latest distribution helps our mission of carrying out the vision of Elouise Cobell to enhance educational opportunities for American Indians and Alaskan Native students. Recently, President Obama honored Ms. Cobell by awarding her the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The President’s recognition of her leadership and dedication to fighting long-standing injustice on behalf of individual Indians is a testament to her life. The Cobell Board of Trustees is honored to continue her legacy and further her impact on Native people. We remain committed to creating a uniquely tuned and perpetual scholarship program designed to respond 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 Program 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 $1 billion has been paid to individual landowners and the equivalent of about 1.9 million acres of land has been transferred to tribal governments.
Offers are currently outstanding for landowners with fractional land interests at:
- Ponca — January 12, 2017
- Blackfeet — January 17, 2017
- Colville — January 26, 2017
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 athttps://www.doi.gov/buybackprogram/FAQ.