Cobell Lawsuit & Settlement | Politics

Lawmakers want tribes to run Cobell land buy-back program

Yellow Bear Dam on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Photo by Alf Leftwich

Ten Republican members of Congress are calling on the Obama administration to allow tribes to manage the Land Buy-Back Program for Tribal Nations.

The $3.4 billion Cobell settlement authorized $1.9 billion for land consolidation. The Interior Department is tasked with buying fractionated interests from willing sellers and returning the land to tribal governments.

DOI has entered into cooperative agreements with several tribes to facilitate sales. But the lawmakers say the administration should go further and enter into self-determination contracts for the program.

“Given the 10-year authority for the program is running, we urge the Department to immediately take whatever steps are necessary to permit Indian tribes – at their request – to assume as many of the functions of the land acquisition program that they have the ability to administer,” the May 22 letter to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell stated.

Congress enacted the settlement in 2010 and the federal courts gave final approval in November 2012. The latter date started the clock on the 10-year deadline for DOI to spend the land consolidation funds.

The first offers, however, didn't go out until late December 2013. Members of three tribes -- the Oglala Sioux Tribe, the Rosebud Sioux Tribe and the Makah Nation -- have participated so far.

DOI is targeting 21 more reservations in the coming year as it seeks to ramp up the program. Congress could always act to extend the 10-year deadline.

Get the Story:
Members of Congress Want More Native Control of Cobell Buyback Program (Indian Country Today 6/4)

Related Stories:
DOI enters Cobell buy-back agreements with three more tribes (05/29)
DOI sets agenda for Cobell buy-back listening session on May 29 (05/23)
DOI extends Cobell buy-back program on Pine Ridge Reservation (5/20)
DOI looks to spend $100M on Navajo Nation for Cobell buy-back (5/19)
DOI targets 21 reservations for next phase of Cobell buy-back (5/16)
DOI to announce next steps for Cobell land buy-back program (5/14)
DOI extends $1.6M buyback offers for Makah Nation landowners (05/09)
DOI to hold listening session on Cobell land buy-back program (04/30)
DOI looks to spend $2.55M on Makah Nation land buy-back (04/21)
Ten reservations account for biggest share of Cobell buyback (04/17)
DOI extends $1.2M in offers to Makah Reservation landowners (04/15)
Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate reach agreement for Cobell buy-back (04/08)
Rep. Young open to an extension for Cobell buy-back program (4/4)
Audio from House subcommittee hearing on Cobell land buyback (4/3)
Larry Roberts: Answers about the Cobell land buy-back program (4/3)
DOI makes transfer of nearly $580K into Cobell scholarship fund (4/2)
Members of Oglala Sioux Tribe respond to Cobell buyback offers (3/28)
House subcommittee to hold hearing on land buy-back program (03/24)
DOI land buy-back boosts economy on Pine Ridge Reservation (03/19)
DOI announces $100M in land offers on Pine Ridge Reservation (3/18)
Deadline approaches for first Cobell land consolidation offers (1/27)

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