Oglala Sioux First Tribe to Reach Agreement of Fractionated Lands


On December 9, the Oglala Sioux Tribe of the Pine Ridge Reservation became the first tribe to reach a land-buy back agreement under the Cobell settlement.

An announcement was made by the Department of the Interior in regards to the finalization of “the first cooperative agreement to facilitate the purchase of individual interests in highly fractionated trust lands to consolidate ownership for tribes.”

The agreement between the Oglala and what is known as the Land Buy-Back Program for Tribal Nations outlines the strategy and resources that will be provided to the tribe in the ownership exchange. The Buy-Back Program was established to manage and implement the land consolidation component that was an aspect of the Cobell settlement. A fund of $1.9 billion from the settlement will consolidate fractional land interests throughout Indian country – the Oglala Sioux are the first.

RELATED: Cobell Land Buy-Back Plan Should Work—But…

The program allows individual owners to voluntarily sell their lands in exchange for payments, those lands will go directly into a trust for the tribe with jurisdiction. The outreach process has begun on the Pine Ridge Reservation and Interior hopes to make the first offers by the end of the year.

“The reservation is among the most fractionated in the United States. Due to the nature of fractionation, the land interests on Pine Ridge are owned by various individuals, including members of other tribes,” an Interior press release stated.

On Saturday, December 14, personnel from the Buy-Back Program will be at Little Wound School in Kyle, South Dakota at 1 p.m. CST to provide information and engage in one-on-one discussions with individual landowners.

“It is a priority for the Obama Administration to reduce fractionation and implement the Buy-Back Program in as fair and equitable a manner as possible,” Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said. “Cooperative agreements give us an opportunity to work together, nation-to-nation, to ensure that the Program’s implementation is tailored to the specific priorities of each tribe. This agreement reflects a spirit of mutual respect and teamwork as we work together to address this opportunity.”

As it stands, Interior has 56 million acres in trust for American Indians. Of that, 10 million acres are held for individual American Indians, with the rest held for Indian tribes. Fractionated lands have hindered resources and development for many tribes. Pine Ridge alone has approximately 6,028 tracts with 195,862 purchasable fractional interests the Interior release said. That staggering figure has made it difficult for potential economic development.

“I am very happy with the agreement and glad that was done,” Oglala Sioux Tribe President Bryan V. Brewer said. “Our outreach workers are out meeting with the people in the communities. I am hoping that we will be able to start buying the fractionated land that is out there with the money that is available. We are also anticipating the first offer to be complete within the month.”

Interior developed an Updated Implementation Plan after consulting with tribal leaders. The plan “significantly expands Program implementation beyond Interior’s initial strategy to launch pilot efforts with less than a dozen tribes.”

RELATED: Interior Releases Valuation Plan for Land Buy-Back Program

This new approach allows for greater flexibility and stronger engagement with tribal governments in Indian country.

Interior said there is an open solicitation period through March 14, where tribes with jurisdiction over the most fractionated lands are able to submit letters of interest or cooperative agreement applications for participation in the program.

The process has started for many in the form of outreach, mapping and mineral evaluations on locations throughout Indian country.

For more information on steps tribes can take to participate in the Program or on the Program in general visit here.

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Suswecha's picture
Submitted by Suswecha on
As some who passed in recent times used to remind us: Anpetu washte - this is a good day, all you beautiful beings out there. Fractionation is the continually divided inheritance of individually-owned land by personal heirs. The Dawes Act was an attempt to pull Indians into the private-property culture which makes societies that themselves fracture the loving and sacred relationship of people toward one another, and to the other life with which we share the Earth. We have heard often that one cannot "own" the Earth. Whatever you feel about this subject, the continuation of individual ownership, divided each time that children inherit "private" land, makes an ever-smaller place where one can stand or move. That seems a mistake, to divide the heritage of one's children in that way. I don't know exactly what will result from this seemingly more just federal activity of returning land to common ownership of a nation, and hope that people will tell us more about their feelings and understanding of what it does. It seems to me that some of the leasing of reservation lands, too, has created some difficulties, but this issue also needs weighing by all members of each nation, as Pine Ridge, for instance has a lot of leased land. Much damaging mining has gone on in what is still known as the Great Sioux Nation, and in public lands, such things that cause a loss of health, must also be addressed by that federal government.