House panel sets hearing on future of Cobell buy-back program

Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-California), the chairman of the House Subcommittee on Indian, Insular and Alaska Native Affairs, addresses the winter session of the National Congress of American Indians in Washington, D.C., on February 14, 2017. Photo by Indianz.Com / Available for use under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

A key subcommittee in the U.S. House finally has a hearing on the schedule.

Since the start of the 115th Congress in January, the House Subcommittee on Indian, Insular and Alaska Native Affairs has met just once for a hearing on Indian Country. That was more than two months ago, when lawmakers looked at infrastructure needs in tribal communities.

The panel is finally getting back to work by looking at the Land Buy-Back Program for Tribal Nations. A hearing next week will focus on the future of the $1.9 billion initiative, which is due to run out of funds during the Trump administration.

The program puts money into the hands of tribal citizens by acquiring their fractional interests in trust properties across Indian Country. The interests are then transferred to tribes, the original owners of the land prior to the allotment era.

As of May 12, more than 58,000 tribal citizens have received more than $1.17 billion for their interests. The equivalent of more than 2.1 million acres has been returned to tribes as a result.

If the program continues at the current pace, it will run out of its $1.9 billion allocation in less than three years or maybe even sooner. But no one at the Department of the Interior, or in Congress, has come up with a proposal to extend the effort.

A witness list for the May 23 hearing, which takes place at 11am Eastern in Room 1324 of the Longworth House Office Building, has not yet been posted online.

House Subcommittee on Indian, Insular and Alaska Native Affairs Notice:
Oversight Hearing on the Status and Future of the Cobell Land Consolidation Program (May 23, 2017)

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