Program works to restore Indian lands, strengthen Tribal communities
Date: December 15, 2016
WASHINGTON – U.S. Deputy Secretary of the Interior Michael L. Connor today announced that the Department has signed agreements with three additional Tribes – the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes in Oklahoma, the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohican Indians in Wisconsin, and the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation in California – to guide implementation of the Land Buy-Back Program for Tribal Nations (Buy-Back Program).
To date, the Department has entered into agreements with 40 Tribal nations to cooperatively implement the Buy-Back Program. The agreements outline coordinated strategies to facilitate education about the Program to landowners, but are unique in time, scope and responsibilities based on the expressed interests of the tribe.
“Our government-to-government working relationship with sovereign Tribal nations across Indian Country has led to the successes that we have seen thus far,” said Deputy Secretary Connor. “We must continue our collaboration to ensure that landowners have the information they need to take advantage of this historic opportunity. I believe strongly that this work can and will succeed, but only with great teamwork and the help of Tribal communities.”
The Buy-Back Program implements the land consolidation component of the Cobell Settlement, which provided $1.9 billion to purchase fractional interests in trust or restricted land from willing sellers at fair market value within 10 years. Since the Program began making offers in December 2013, more than $950 million has been paid to individual landowners and the equivalent of about 1.7 million acres of land has been transferred to Tribal governments.
Consolidated interests are immediately restored to Tribal trust ownership for uses benefiting the reservation community and Tribal members. Returning fractionated lands to Tribes in trust has enormous potential to improve Tribal community resources by increasing home site locations, improving transportation routes, spurring Tribal economic development, and preserving traditional cultural or ceremonial sites.
Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribe Governor Eddie Hamilton said, “The Cheyenne & Arapaho Tribes are pleased to announce that we have entered into a Cooperative Agreement with the Department of Interior’s Land Buy-Back Program. The Cheyenne & Arapaho Tribes are listed within the top 25 of Tribal nations with the most fractionated interest. The C & A Tribes are at great risk for losing much of our present land base. We feel this program will give us an opportunity to develop our land base, consolidate fractionated interest and strengthen our Tribal sovereignty.”
The Stockbridge-Munsee Tribal Council said, “The Stockbridge-Munsee Community is excited to have this opportunity to participate in the Land Buy-Back Program for Tribal Nations. While the amount of land that has fractionated ownership may be relatively small, the consolidation of ownership with the Stockbridge-Munsee will be another step forward toward resolving the checkerboard of jurisdiction that is the result of past federal actions.”
Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation Chairman Cody J. Martinez said, “The Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation is pleased to announce that we recently entered into a memorandum of agreement with the Land Buy-Back Program for Tribal Nations. The Tribes will benefit from the land consolidation, which will enable the tribe to consolidate highly fractionated land interests and create opportunities for housing and economic development.”
The Program works with Tribes to tailor the implementation strategy to the needs and culture of each tribe, including not only partnering through agreements, but also through sharing information and data with Tribes, incorporating Tribal feedback when developing the Program’s implementation schedule, and working to value and acquire Tribal priority land.
The Buy-Back Program’s implementation schedule, which highlights the steps taken to date to strengthen Tribal sovereignty, consolidate fractional interests, and provide new opportunities to Native American communities.
Landowners can contact the Trust Beneficiary Call Center at 888-678-6836 or visit their local Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians (OST) to ask questions about their land or purchase offers, and learn about financial planning resources. More information and detailed frequently asked questions are available at https://www.doi.gov/buybackprogram/FAQ to help individuals make informed decisions about their land.