DOI signs five more cooperative agreements for Cobell land buy-back program

A view of Lake Quinault in Washington. Photo by Tom Harpel / Flickr

The Interior Department announced five more cooperative agreements for the Land Buy-Back Program for Tribal Nations.

Joining the effort are the Cabazon Band of Mission Indians in California, the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians in Minnesota, the Ponca Tribe of Oklahoma, the Quinault Nation in Washington and the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes of Idaho. That brings the total number of cooperative agreements to 25.

“The Cobell settlement provided no more than 10 years to implement this program, which helps fulfill President Obama’s commitment to strengthen Native American communities,” said Interior Deputy Secretary Michael Connor said in a press release. “We will meet this ambitious deadline by giving tribal governments the resources and flexibility to carry out the program in coordination with tribal priorities. Working closely, we can maximize our ability to provide landowners with the information they need to make informed decisions about their land through this voluntary program.”

The $3.4 billion Cobell settlement provided $1.9 billion for Indian landowners who want to sell their fractionated interests. DOI will pay "fair market value" as required by the Indian Land Consolidation Act.

Participation is entirely voluntary. Any land that is acquired will be returned to tribes.

"The Quinault Indian Reservation was completely allotted, and today, many of those allotments are highly-fractionated,” said Quinault President Fawn Sharp. “We have been committed to dealing with this challenge effectively and efficiently, in a way that will benefit the entire Quinault Nation."

Since the program began in late 2013, Indian landowners have accepted nearly $668 million for their fractionated interests, according to the buy-back program. The equivalent of 1.3 million acres have been returned to tribes.

"Fractionalization of our tribal lands has become a problem over the years," Ponca Chairman Earl S. Howe, III said. "The Land Buy-Back Program will definitely help this issue for the tribe, and affected tribal members, which will also help build our land base.”

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