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Three more tribes sign cooperative agreements for Cobell program

Filed Under: Cobell Lawsuit and Settlement | National
More on: california, cheyenne arapaho, cody martinez, doi, eddie hamilton, land consolidation, michael connor, oklahoma, stockbridge-munsee, sycuan, wisconsin
     
   

Photo by Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes

Three more tribes have signed cooperative agreements for the Land Buy-Back Program for Tribal Nations.

The Interior Department announced the agreements with 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. The tribes will help educate landowners about the program, which helps consolidate fractional interests in Indian Country.

“Our government-to-government working relationship with sovereign tribal nations across Indian Country has led to the successes that we have seen thus far,” Deputy Secretary Michael Connor, the second-in-command at Interior, said in a press release on Thursday. “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 program got off the ground four years ago, when the $3.4 billion settlement to the Cobell trust fund lawsuit became final. The settlement set aside $1.9 billion to acquire fractional interests from willing individual Indians and restore them to tribal ownership.

As of December 9, nearly 127,000 landowners have been paid more than $949 million for their fractional interests. The equivalent of more than 1.7 million acres has been transferred to tribes as a result.

"We feel this program will give us an opportunity to develop our land base, consolidate fractionated interest and strengthen our tribal sovereignty," Cheyenne and Arapaho Governor Eddie Hamilton said in the press release.

"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," the Stockbridge-Munsee council noted.

"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," added Sycuan Chairman Chairman Cody J. Martinez.

The fund will run out in less than three years if sales continue at the current rate, according to a status report from the department. It will be up to Congress and the administration of Republican president-elect Donald Trump to determine how they want to continue the program.

Interior Department Report:
2016 Status Report: Land Buy-Back Program for Tribal Nations (November 2016)

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