Veterans from the Yakama Warriors Association. Photo: Governor Jay Inslee

Yakama Nation landowners weigh offers as Cobell buy-back winds down

Landowners on the Yakama Nation have until June 19 to respond to offers made through the Land Buy-Back Program for Tribal Nations.

In April, the Department of the Interior sent nearly $68 million in offers to more than 3,500 owners of fractional interests on the reservation in Washington. According to a May 19 chart, 17 percent of offers have been accepted so far.

Any land that is acquired through the program will be transferred to the tribe, the original owner prior to the allotment era, a disastrous policy that was imposed by the federal government. Despite the purpose, a top Trump administration official characterized both tribal leaders and individual Indians as greedy at a hearing on Capitol Hill on Tuesday.

"I don't think there's any tribal leader that would say, 'Gee -- I don't want free money,'" Jim Cason, the "acting" deputy secretary at Interior, told the House Subcommittee on Indian, Insular and Alaska Native Affairs.

Indianz.Com on SoundCloud: House Subcommittee on Indian, Insular and Alaska Native Affairs May 23, 2017

Since December 2015, the program has put more than $1.1 billion into the hands of individual Indians across the nation. The equivalent of 2.1 million acres has been restored to tribal ownership.

But with only about $600 million left in the $1.9 billion buy-back program, Cason plans to direct staff to focus on reservations where interests can be acquired more cheaply. He also said the Trump administration does not intend on asking Congress to fund future land consolidation efforts.

Read More on the Story:
More than 3,000 Yakamas receive land buyback offers (The Yakima Herald-Republic 5/24)

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)

Department of the Interior Report:
2016 Status Report: Land Buy-Back Program for Tribal Nations (November 2016)

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