Interior, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Sign Agreement to Reduce Land Ownership Fractionation in Indian Country
Location represents the second most fractionated reservation in the country; to date, Land Buy-Back Program has successfully restored more than 203,000 acres of land to tribal ownership
WASHINGTON, DC – As part of President Obama’s continuing effort to help American Indian leaders build strong, resilient communities, Deputy Secretary of the Interior Mike Connor today announced the Department has signed a cooperative agreement with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe of North and South Dakota to facilitate the purchase of individual interests in fractionated trust lands and consolidate ownership for the tribes with jurisdiction. In his historic visit to the Standing Rock reservation last month, President Obama underscored his commitment to help restore tribal homelands across Indian Country.
The Standing Rock reservation is the second most fractionated location in Indian Country, with nearly 230,000 purchasable fractional interests. Through the Land Buy-Back Program for Tribal Nations (Buy-Back Program), interested Indian landowners receive payments for voluntarily selling their land. Consolidated interests are immediately transferred to tribal governments and stay in trust for uses benefiting the tribes and their members. The cooperative agreement with the Standing Rock Tribe details what the tribal government will do to help implement the Buy-Back Program and provides resources to facilitate outreach and education, and solicit interest from owners.
“The fractionation of tribal lands has locked away resources and decision-making from tribal communities for many decades,” said Deputy Secretary Connor. “The Department remains committed to reaching as many interested landowners as possible, and our agreement with Standing Rock leaders will facilitate critical outreach on one of the most fractionated locations in Indian Country. This will ensure Indian landowners are aware of the Buy-Back Program, understand the opportunity to sell their fractional interests for the benefit of their tribal community, and have the assistance they need to make informed decisions and complete the process if they chose to sell. I look forward to our partnership and collective efforts.”
The Buy-Back Program is entering into cooperative agreements that are flexible and responsive to the specific needs and unique circumstances of each tribal government and location involved. The agreements showcase the active role that tribes can have, which is intended to improve the Buy-Back Program’s effectiveness and efficiency while minimizing administrative costs.
The Department recently announced 21 locations where land consolidation activities such as planning, outreach, mapping, mineral evaluations, appraisals or acquisitions are expected to take place through the end of 2015. These communities represent more than half of all the fractional interests and unique owners across Indian Country. To date, the Department has entered into cooperative agreements or other understandings with 12 of those locations.
“The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe is pleased that a Cooperative Agreement with the Land Buy-Back Program for Tribal Nations has been approved and the Tribe will provide outreach services for the Land Buy-Back Program,” said Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault II. “The Tribe has been providing land consolidation services to reduce fractionation for many years, either through exchange or purchase of fractionated interests; the Land Buy Back Program will help the Tribe with these efforts by providing the funding necessary to further complete the Tribes’ and Land Buy-Back Program’s objectives in reducing the fractionation of Indian lands. The acquisition of these fractionated interests will provide the Tribe with increased land base that may be utilized for purposes such as housing areas for Tribal members. The Tribe looks forward to working with the Land Buy-Back Program for Tribal Nations.”
Across Indian Country, more than 245,000 owners of 3 million fractionated interests, spanning about 150 Indian reservations, are eligible to participate in the Buy-Back Program. To date, the Buy-Back Program has made nearly 33,500 purchase offers to owners of fractionated interests, successfully concluded transactions worth more than $72 million and restored the equivalent of more than 203,000 acres of land to tribal ownership.
The Department’s outreach efforts have included several tribal members around the world. In fact, landowners on the most fractionated location – the Pine Ridge Reservation – reside in all 50 states as well as a handful of countries. Interior has spent much of this year working in partnership with the Oglala Sioux Tribe to communicate with landowners and has extended offers to more than 18,000 Pine Ridge landowners with purchasable interests representing 80 percent of the reservation’s landowners.
The Buy-Back Program was created to implement the land consolidation component of the Cobell Settlement, which provided $1.9 billion to consolidate fractional land interests across Indian Country. As part of the settlement, the Buy-Back Program continues to contribute to the Cobell Education Scholarship Fund, managed by the American Indian College Fund. Up to $60 million in contributions will be made to help open doors and create opportunities for current and future generations of Native college students. Contributions to the scholarship fund have so far exceeded $3 million.
Landowners with interests at Standing Rock can contact the Trust Beneficiary Call Center at (888) 678-6836 with questions or to register their information. Individuals can also visit their local Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians (OST) or Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) office, or find more information at: www.doi.gov/buybackprogram in order to make informed decisions about their land.
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