Cobell Lawsuit & Settlement | National

Harlan McKosato: Cobell buy-back program tackles fractionation

The Interior Department held a listening session on the Land Buy-Back Program for Tribal Nations in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on March 3, 2016. Photo by US Department of the Interior via Flickr

The Land Buy-Back Program for Tribal Nations keeps chugging along thanks to the $3.4 billion settlement to the Cobell trust fund lawsuit. Radio show host Harlan McKosato has more from New Mexico:
Many Natives see humor in the fact that they receive a $2 check from the U.S. Department of Treasury for their land ownership and/or their oil and gas leases. But there is a deeper story and reasoning why this tragi-comedy is impacting Indian country.

Fractionated lands (lands that many owners only own a fraction of) are a result of a U.S. government policy started in the late 1800s of dividing tribal lands and individual Indian allotments among more and more owners after the death(s) of the original owner(s). Most Native people have not produced wills to their inheritors for their land allotments, creating a situation where fractionation has grown exponentially over the past several generations.

For instance there are many 160-acre allotments throughout tribal lands with hundreds, even thousands of individual owners. According to the Department of Interior, there are more than 1,200 owners on a single tract of land on the Crow Creek Reservation in South Dakota. This problem has persisted, but due to the Cobell v. Salazar settlement a few years ago the problem is finally being addressed.

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Harlan McKosato: Indian Choice: Knowledge Is Power With the Land Buy-Back Program (Indian Country Today 3/21)

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