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Two Tribal Nations Sign Land Buy-Back Agreements

Two nations recently reached agreements with the Department of the Interior as part of the Land Buy-Back Program.
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The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation recently signed agreements with the U.S. Department of the Interior as part of the Land Buy-Back Program for Tribal Nations according to Interior Deputy Secretary Michael Connor.

This is the latest step in the Interior’s work to reduce land fractionation and strengthen tribal sovereignty across Indian country.

The Buy-Back Program through Interior has reached cooperative agreements with nearly 20 sovereign tribal nations.

“We continue to be encouraged by the growing momentum and excitement about the Buy-Back Program across Indian country,” Connor said. “As we have made clear, a significant factor in the Program’s success is the ability to work effectively with tribal leadership to best tailor outreach and information to their community. Working closely with the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation, we can maximize our ability to provide landowners with the information they need to make informed decisions about their land through this voluntary program.”

Fractionated lands consist of three million fractionated interests among more than 245,000 owners on 150 reservations as a result of years of being passed down and divided through the generations. As part of the Cobell Settlement, the government has set aside $1.9 billion to consolidate the fractionated lands throughout Indian country. Individual owners who voluntarily sell their land receive payment, while the land is immediately transferred to tribal governments to remain in trust and to be used by the tribe and their members.

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More than 46,000 offers have been purchased with successful transactions worth $330 million and restored almost 541,000 acres to tribes.

“The Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation is one of the most highly fractionated reservations in the country. The Land Buy-Back program will assist us in our continued effort to consolidate our land base,” said Harold Frazier, chairman Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe. “It will also have a positive financial impact of our tribal membership. This is especially beneficial considering that our reservation contains the poorest county in the nation. On behalf of the tribal membership, we are grateful for the opportunity to participate in the program. The tribal leadership will work cooperatively and diligently to ensure success and maximize the benefits of the Land Buy-Back Program for the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe.”

“The Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation looks forward to collaborating with the Land Buy-Back Program for Tribal Nations,” said Liana Onnen, chairperson of the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation. “Our participation in this program furthers the common goal to purchase highly fractionated trust land from voluntary sellers at fair market value. The consolidated ownership of these fractional interests on behalf of the Nation promotes tribal self-governance and benefits the Nation as a whole.”

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, Arizona. More information is available via the Federal Register.

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 here.