Program Seeks to Reduce Fractionation, Strengthen Tribal Sovereignty across Indian Country
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Deputy Secretary of the Interior Michael L. Connor today announced that the Lummi Tribe of the Lummi Reservation in Washington State has signed a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Department of the Interior. The Tribe joins nearly 20 other tribal nations in signing agreements with the Department to actively participate in the Land Buy-Back Program for Tribal Nations (Buy-Back Program).
The agreements provide tribes the opportunity to actively participate in the Buy-Back Program, including identifying acquisition priorities, conducting appraisals, and leading owner outreach. Each agreement between the Buy-Back Program and individual tribes is unique in time, scope and responsibilities, based on the expressed interests of the tribe.
“We are grateful to the Lummi Nation for their enthusiasm as we continue to implement the Buy-Back Program across Indian Country,” said Deputy Secretary Connor. “Land fractionation is a serious problem, locking away resources from use by tribal communities. Every interest sold under this initiative promotes tribal self-governance and reinforces the cultural and economic viability of tribes and their citizens for future generations. We look forward to working collaboratively to provide landowners with the information they need to make informed decisions about their land.”
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. It allows interested individual owners to receive payments for voluntarily selling their land. Interested sellers receive payments directly into their Individual Indian Money (IIM) account, and consolidated interests are immediately transferred to tribal governments and stay in trust for uses benefiting the tribes and their members.
There are more than 245,000 owners of 3 million fractionated interests, spanning approximately 150 Indian reservations, who are eligible to participate in the Buy-Back Program.
Thus far, the Buy-Back Program has paid close to $350 million to individual landowners and has restored the equivalent of approximately 540,000 acres of land to tribal governments.
“Signing a cooperative agreement with the Interior Department will allow us to place previously unusable fractionated trust lands into ownership of the tribe and compensate landowners willing to sell for the betterment of the tribal community,” said Lummi Nation Chairman Timothy Ballew.
The Department has announced 42 locations where land consolidation activities such as planning, outreach, mapping, mineral evaluations, appraisals or acquisitions are expected to take place through the middle of 2017. These communities represent 83 percent of all outstanding fractional interests across Indian Country.
To learn more about the Buy-Back Program, tribal leaders and landowners are encouraged to attend the 2015 Listening Session on March 19, 2015, in Laveen, AZ. More information is available via the Federal Register and additional resources for tribal leaders are also available.
Landowners with fractional interests 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/landowners.