Cobell Lawsuit & Settlement | Opinion

Kevin Washburn: Buyback program strengthens tribal relations





Assistant Secretary Kevin Washburn, the head of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, shares an update on the Land Buy-Back Program for Tribal Nations:
In our first year, the Department has focused on establishing the building blocks of program success. Nation-to-Nation conversations have been critical to this development, and have helped us make significant policy decisions about the Program. This past month, we released an Updated Implementation Plan, which incorporates suggestions and responds to comments received through multiple tribal consultations and one-on-one meetings.

We have heard from tribal leaders that we must implement the Buy-Back Program in a fair and equitable manner, moving quickly to ensure that we reach as much of Indian Country as possible. Additionally, we sought independent analysis from The Appraisal Foundation, the nation’s foremost authority on appraisal standards to ensure a high quality valuation process would be used.

Tribes also expressed the need for predictability and transparency on the timing of implementation efforts. In response, the Department expanded its implementation strategy by opening up a solicitation period through March 2014, during which tribes with jurisdiction over the most fractionated locations are invited to submit letters of interest or cooperative agreement applications for participation in the program. This solicitation puts much of the timing in the hands of tribal governments and will allow the program to move on a quicker timeline.

And, in a historic step this week, Interior announced that the very first purchase offers have been sent. After working closely with Oglala Sioux leadership, landowners on the Pine Ridge Reservation – one of the most fractionated locations in the United States – will be receiving purchase offers this week. Individuals with interests at the Makah Indian Reservation will receive offers as well.

Get the Story:
Kevin Washburn: Interior's Land Buy-Back Program: Strengthening our Nation-to-Nation Partnership (White House Blog 12/20)

Related Stories:
Audio from SCIA hearing for Cobell land consolidation program (12/11)
Oglala Sioux Tribe enters agreement for land consolidation (12/10)
Senate Indian Affairs Committee sets hearing on land buyback (12/9)
Gabe Galanda: More problems in DOI's land buy-back plan (11/12)
Appraisal Foundation reviews Cobell land consolidation plans (11/8)