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Deadline Looms for Pine Ridge, Makah Reservation Land Buy-Back Offers

Gale Courey Toensing
1/28/14

Owners of fractioned land interests at the Pine Ridge and Makah reservations have until January 29, 2014 – tomorrow – to participate in the first round of purchase offers in the Department of the Interior’s voluntary Land Buy-Back Program for Tribal Nations.

The Land Buy-Back Program for Tribal Nations (Buy-Back Program) was established to implement the land consolidation provisions of the Cobell Settlement Agreement. The Cobell Settlement Agreement was reached in December 2009 and provided for a $1.9 billion Trust Land Consolidation Fund, which is available to the Secretary of the Interior within a 10-year period to purchase fractional interests in trust or restricted land.

The Department of the Interior (DOI) announced in December 2013 that owners of fractionated land interests at the Pine Ridge Reservation and Makah Reservation were the first to receive purchase offers under the Buy-Back Program.

The Pine Ridge Reservation is among the most highly-fractionated locations in the United States. Fractionation of ownership affects more than 93,500 land tracts on more than 150 Indian reservations over the next 10 years, the Buy-Back Program will make purchase offers to willing sellers in an effort to make land more usable and prevent further fractionation, Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Kevin Washburn said.

RELATED: Land Buy-Back Program: Strengthening Our Nation-to-Nation Partnership

“We have been working closely in partnership with the Oglala Sioux Tribe to provide fractionated interest holders within the Pine Ridge Reservation the opportunity to participate in the DOI’s Land Buy-Back for Tribal Nations Program,” said Kevin K. Washburn, Assistant Secretary – Indian Affairs. “If you wish to participate in this program, the deadline for this first wave of purchase offers for interest holders within the Pine Ridge Reservation is January 29, 2014. By taking advantage of this opportunity you will be contributing to the greater good of the Oglala Sioux people for generations to come.”

Interested sellers must respond quickly. Purchase offers are valid for 45 calendar days from the date of the cover letter that was included in the offer package provided to owners.

Landowners can contact the Trust Beneficiary Call Center at (888) 678-6836 with questions about their purchase offers, visit their local Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians (OST) office, contact their tribe’s staff working with the Buy-Back Program, or find more information at www.doi.gov/buybackprogram.

Under the Buy-Back Program, willing sellers receive fair market value for their land, based on objective appraisals. In addition, sellers also receive a base payment of $75 per offer, regardless of the value of the land. Some owners have already received more than $100,000 for their interests though offer amounts will vary based on the particular interests held. Selling land does not jeopardize a landowner’s ability to receive individual settlement payments from the Cobell Settlement. Cobell Settlement payments are being handled separately by the Garden City Group, (800) 961-6109.

All lands sold will immediately be held in trust for the tribe with jurisdiction. This effort will strengthen tribal sovereignty and put decision-making in the hands of the tribal government, freeing up resources that have been locked-up as land interests have fractionated over time, Washburn said.

The DOI and tribes have been talking about the Buy-Back Program for more than a year at events throughout Indian country, such as pow-wows, community meetings, and large Indian organizational gatherings to get the word out about the program and give landowners the opportunity to gather information in order to make informed decisions about their land. Additional events are scheduled to occur in the next two weeks in Neah Bay and Auburn, Washington, regarding Makah fractional interests, and in Rapid City, South Dakota, and communities on the Pine Ridge Reservation. For information about this week’s event for Makah, contact Dale Denney at (360) 645-3106. For details about the Pine Ridge events, contact Georgine Looks Twice at (605) 867-2610.

More information about the Buy-Back Program, including information for tribal leaders and landowners, is available here.

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