Cobell Lawsuit & Settlement

DOI to consult tribes about Indian land consolidation program





The Interior Department is launching the $1.9 billion land consolidation portion of the $3.4 billion Cobell settlement.

As part of the Land Buy-Back Program, DOI will pay Indian landowners for their fractionated interests and the land will be returned to tribal governments. The program is entirely voluntary but it will put money in the hands of beneficiaries and create a scholarship fund of up to $60 million.

“Freeing up fractionated lands for the benefit of tribal nations will increase the number of acres in tribal land bases, stimulate economic development and promote tribal sovereignty and self-determination,” Deputy Interior Secretary David J. Hayes said in a press release.

To advance the effort, DOI released a plan that will be used to consult with tribal leaders. Three meetings will be held on January 31 in Minneapolis, Minnesota; on February 6 in Rapid City, South Dakota; and on February 14 in Seattle, Washington.

"There are approximately 150 reservations with 2.9 million purchasable fractional interests owned by more than 219,000 individuals (the whereabouts of approximately 18% of these individuals are currently unknown)," the plan states, highlighting the extent of the effort. "The number of fractional interests grew by about 12.5% from 2007 to 2011."

The money must be spent within 10 years but DOI officials hope to use most of it during the second term of President Barack Obama by targeting 40 reservations where fractionation is a major issue. "A significant portion of the fractionated tracts, interests, and acres are located within the Great Plains and Rocky Mountain Regions," the plan states.

The settlement allows DOI to take 15 percent of the $1.9 billion for administrative purposes. Comments on the plan are being accepted until March 15, 2013.

Get the Story:
Government rolls out $1.9B Indian land buyback program (AP 12/17)
Minnesota Chippewa tribes get millions to solidify land ownership (The Duluth News Tribune 12/19)

Relevant Documents:
Secretarial Order | Initial Implementation Plan