Headquarters of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes in Concho, Oklahoma. Photo: Cheyenne & Arapaho Tribes

Landowners from Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes receive Cobell buy-back offers

The Land Buy-Back Program for Tribal Nations continues to chug along till its eventual demise, with Oklahoma seeing its final set of offers.

Nearly 3,000 landowners from the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes received offers for their fractional interests, the Department of the Interior announced on Thursday. The deadline to accept is October 24 and any interests that are acquired will be transferred to the tribal government.

“The Buy-Back Program remains focused on consolidating fractional interests in collaboration with tribes,” program director John McClanahan said.

“Land consolidation supports tribal sovereignty, enables more effective land management, and has facilitated tribal infrastructure projects and economic development," McClanahan added. "I am hopeful that lasting benefits will be realized as a result of program implementation at Cheyenne and Arapaho, one of most fractionated locations in Oklahoma.”

The offers went out to about half of the potential Cheyenne and Arapaho landowners. About 6,000 could have been eligible, The Cheyenne & Arapaho Tribal Tribune, the tribe's newspaper, reported earlier this year.

But the Trump administration announced a change in course for the program late last month in order to make the most of the remaining funds. With about $540 million left for land consolidation, only 20 tribes -- including Cheyenne and Arapaho -- are going to be able to participate before the money runs out.

Of the 20, the Cheyenne and Arapaho are the only ones left in Oklahoma. Several other tribes in the state that had been on the implementation schedule but were removed by the Trump team last month.

The program was originally seeded with $1.9 billion. Through August 24, some $1.22 billion has been spent, according to the department.

More than 720,000 fractional interests have been consolidated and the equivalent of over 2.1 million acres of land has been transferred to tribal governments as a result, according to the department.

Prior to Cheyenne and Arapaho, the Quapaw Tribe, the Ponca Tribe and the Osage Nation were the only Oklahoma participants.

The final 20 tribes on the implementation schedule follow, with stars denoting the 12 reservations where offers were previously made during the Obama administration. Double stars represent the 5 reservations in Montana, the home state of Secretary Ryan Zinke, where repeat offers are expected to go out:
  1. Blackfeet (Montana) **
  2. Bois Forte (Minnesota)
  3. Cheyenne and Arapaho (Oklahoma)
  4. Cheyenne River (South Dakota) *
  5. Crow (Montana) **
  6. Fond du Lac (Minnesota) *
  7. Fort Belknap (Montana) **
  8. Fort Berthold (North Dakota)
  9. Fort Peck (Montana) **
  10. Navajo (Arizona, New Mexico, Utah) *
  11. Northern Cheyenne (Montana) **
  12. Pine Ridge (South Dakota) *
  13. Rosebud (South Dakota) *
  14. Santee Sioux (Nebraska)
  15. Skokomish (Washington)
  16. Spirit Lake (North Dakota)
  17. Standing Rock (North and South Dakota) *
  18. Umatilla (Oregon) *
  19. Warm Springs (Oregon)
  20. Wind River (Wyoming)

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

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