It is important that landowners think strategically about whether or not to participate in the Land Buy-Back Program for Tribal Nations (Buy-Back Program), and how to use the funds they receive from selling their land. Financial training, including budgeting, investing, and planning for the future, empowers beneficiaries to grow and sustain personal wealth. The Bureau of Indian Affairs has prepared two online resources on Understanding Probate and Estate Planning to help landowners gather more information.

Buy-Back outreach to landowners is focused on helping interested sellers understand the Program and make informed decisions about whether to sell their fractional interests. Making informed decisions occurs through various means, including by:

Helping Individuals Understand their Land

  • Reviewing quarterly account (IIM) statements to help owners understand how much land they own and whether it produces income.
  • Studying the Individual Trust Interest (ITI) Report that includes a description of the land location, ownership type (e.g., surface, mineral, or both), and tract ID information.
  • Researching land on BLM site to locate original allotment documents using ITI tract legal description.
  • Providing maps and showing owners how to view their land on public mapping websites.

Reviewing all the Options

  • There are various other options for dealing with fractionated land beyond the Buy-Back Program.  Landowners who do not receive an offer or choose not to sell their land may wish to speak with OST or BIA about planning to pass on their land in ways that minimize future fractionation.  The OST has partnered with a number of tribal organizations, legal aid services, and law schools to help provide Indian trust beneficiaries with resources to assist with estate planning.  For more information, go to: https://www.doi.gov/buybackprogram/landowners/making-decisions-about-land-use.
  • Owners may want to consider:  writing a will to leave all of their interests to an heir or the tribe; gifting interests to an heir or tribe; selling or buying interests to or from co-owners; exchanging their interests with the tribe (provide fractional interests to the tribe in exchange for the right to occupy or use land under tribal control or management; and creating a joint tenancy for their interests by will or deed.

Considering Financial Implications

  • Since Buy-Back payments can be sizeable (e.g., there have been more than 3,000 individual payments exceeding $50,000, with some more than $1 million), outreach staff also promote financial education and awareness to help owners think about what they will do with the money they receive if they choose to sell.
  • Landowners interested in learning more about financial awareness may contact the Call Center, their local FTO, work with one of OST’s many partner organizations that provide financial education, or may visit the OST website supporting financial empowerment: http://www.doi.gov/ost/individual_beneficiaries/financial_empowerment/index.cfm.

Encouraging Review of Certain Rules Governing Fractional Interests **

  • The BIA and OST assist landowners with understanding the American Indian Probate Reform Act of 2004 (AIPRA) which created a nationwide Federal code for the probate of Indian trust estates by the Department’s Office of Hearings and Appeals.  The act changed the way trust estates may be devised or distributed to heirs when there is no will.  The act affects inheritance of all Indian trust or restricted land, except for lands located in Alaska and lands held in restricted fee status for members of the Five Civilized Tribes of Oklahoma and The Osage Nation. (https://www.doi.gov/sites/doi.opengov.ibmcloud.com/files/uploads/aipra-brochure_PL108-374.pdf)
  • The following three tribes have tribal probate codes that were approved by the Assistant Secretary Indian Affairs pursuant to AIPRA:  Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, Northern Cheyenne Tribe, and Fond du Lac Band of the Lake Superior Chippewa.
  • In addition, tribes have specific Federal statutes that govern the disposition of trust or restricted lands, including at these locations:
  1. The Creek Nation of Oklahoma a Act of August 29, 1967 (Pub. L. 90-76 § 3, 81 Stat. 177, 25 U.S.C. § 788)
  2. Yakima Reservation (or within the area ceded by the Treaty of June 9, 1855 (12 Stat. 1951)), The Act of December 31, 1970 (Pub. L. 91–627, 84 Stat. 1874, 25 U.S.C. § 607), amending section 7 of the Act of August 9, 1946 (60 Stat. 968).
  3. Warm Springs Reservation (or within the area ceded by the Treaty of June 25, 1855 (12 Stat. 37)), Act of August 10, 1972 (Pub. L. 92–377, 86 Stat. 530).
  4. Nez Perce Indian Reservation (or within the area ceded by the Treaty of June 11, 1855 (12 Stat. 957)) Act of September 29, 1972 (Pub. L. 92–443, 86 Stat. 744).
  5. The Umatilla Indian Reservation, Act of April 18, 1978 (Pub. L. 95-264, 92 Stat. 202, 25 U.S.C. § 463d).
  6. Osage Nation, of Oklahoma *** Act of October 21, 1978 (Pub. L. 95-496 § 5, 92 Stat 1660, 25 U.S.C. § 331 note, see also 25 C.F.R. part 17).
  7. Standing Rock Reservation of North Dakota and South Dakota, Act of June 17, 1980 (Pub. L. 96-274, 94 Stat. 537).
  8. Devils Lake Sioux Tribe of North Dakota (Spirit Lake Sioux Tribe) Act of January 12, 1983 (Pub. L. 97-459, 96 Stat. 2515).
  9. Lake Traverse Indian Reservation (Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate) Act of October 19, 1984 (Pub. L. 98-513, 98 Stat. 2411).

**  Future changes in laws cannot be predicted.  The information provided is based only on rules and laws in force of the date of this Report.

*** Probates of deceased members of the Five Civilized Tribes of Oklahoma and The Osage Nation are conducted by the State Courts of Oklahoma rather than the Office of Hearings and Appeals.  See generally Act of August 4, 1947 (Pub. L. 80-336, 61 Stat. 73); 25 U.S.C. §§ 375d, 331 note; 25 C.F.R. parts 16-17.