your internet resource on facebook on twitter on Google+ on soundcloud
phone: 202 630 8439
Dynamic Homes
Advertise on Indianz.Com
Home > News > Headlines
Print   Subscribe
Interior Department touts tribal homeland efforts as Obama era comes to an end

Filed Under: Cobell Lawsuit and Settlement | National | Politics | Trust
More on: barack obama, bia, doi, donald trump, land consolidation, land-into-trust, markwayne mullin, michael connor, navajo, russell begaye, sally jewell

President Barack Obama at the White House Tribal Nations Conference in Washington, D.C, on September 26, 2016. Photo: Pete Souza / White House

Helping tribes restore their homelands has been one of the major goals of the Interior Department and officials are touting their achievements as the Obama administration comes to a close.

In a new report, Secretary Sally Jewell said the department exceeded its goal of placing 500,000 acres in trust for tribes. And Deputy Secretary Michael Connor, during a visit to the Navajo Nation, announced a major milestone for the Land Buy-Back Program for Tribal Nations.

"This administration should be proud of the historic progress made to restore tribal homelands and strengthen tribal economies," Jewell said in an exit memo released by the White House on Thursday.

The twin achievements mean that more than 2 million acres of land has been restored to tribal governments since January 2009. Some of that came through the 2,000-plus land-into-trust applications that were approved by the Bureau of Indian Affairs while a larger chunk was the result of the landmark Cobell trust fund settlement.

The settlement, which the federal government administration negotiated soon after President Barack Obama took office in January 2009, set aside $1.9 billion for a land consolidation program that benefits individual Indians as well as tribes. As of December 31, more than $1 billion has been paid to landowners for their fractional interests, resulting in the equivalent of more than 1.87 million acres restored to tribal ownership.

“The significant accomplishments we are announcing today come as a direct result of the close nation-to-nation cooperation we have had with sovereign tribal nations, such as the Navajo Nation,” Connor said in a press release on Thursday. “We’re already seeing the difference this program is making. In addition to the significant resources flowing into Indian Country, returning fractionated lands to tribes in trust has enormous potential to improve tribal community resources by increasing home site locations, improving transportation routes, spurring tribal economic development, and preserving traditional cultural or ceremonial sites.”

On the Navajo Nation alone, more than 25,000 individual landowners participated in the program. According to Interior, they were paid more than $108 million for their fractional interests and more than 155,000 acres was restored to the tribe.

While that number only represents a small portion of the reservation -- which is the largest in the United States -- tribal officials believe the program has been a success. Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye said it was crucial for land consolidation efforts to continue.

"We recognize Elouise Cobell for challenging the government and bringing about a historic settlement that made the Land Buy-Back Program possible,” Begaye said in Interior's release. “Consolidation of land is significant for the Navajo Nation because we have many checkerboard areas. It has been very good for the Navajo Nation to buy land back to turn it into trust land, and we appreciate all the collaboration and hard work that was put into the effort."

But while Obama officials are highlighting their efforts, the announcements put a spotlight on the uncertainty facing Indian Country as Republican president-elect Donald Trump prepares to take control of the federal government in just two weeks. He's said nothing about Indian policy since his historic election although his Native American Coalition has been reaching out to tribes to hear about their concerns.

Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-Oklahoma), a citizen of the Cherokee Nation who chairs the coalition, has called for the BIA to give more control to tribes when it comes to their homelands. That could mean streamlining or changing the land-into-trust process, although attempts to do that, either through legislation or with regulations, typically generate controversy.

"The land entrusted to tribes belongs to the Native American people, and it ought to be up to them alone to decide how to best use and distribute the resources on their own land," Mullin said in a statement last month in response to speculation about Trump's plans for Indian Country.

On the land consolidation front, tribes are running into big issues too. If the Cobell program continues at the current pace, the fund will run out in less than three years, so it would be up to Congress and the Trump administration to decide whether to continue the effort.

In the past, land consolidation was only funded with about $21 million a year, a figure that never really helped tribes or individual Indians. The money was never enough to address fractionation either, which occurs when a parcel of land is passed onto successive generations of individual Indians, resulting in multiple people -- or even hundreds and thousands -- sharing equal interests in the same property.

"Fractionation is a significant problem in Indian Country," Interior said in a Cobell status report in November. "When tracts have hundreds or thousands of co-owners, it is difficult to effectively use the land. As a result, many highly fractionated tracts are under-utilized, unoccupied, or unavailable for any purpose."

Prior land consolidation efforts also have run into legal problems because the U.S. Supreme Court has twice ruled that individual Indians must be justly compensated for their fractional interests, regardless of how small or how large.

The Cobell program is entirely voluntary and requires "fair market value" to be paid to landowners. Nationally, about 42 percent of individual Indians who have received offers have accepted them, according to Interior's data.

White House Exit Memo:
Toward a Bright Future: The Interior Department’s Record of Progress (January 2017)

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

Interior Department Solicitor Opinion:
Applicability of the Indian Land Consolidation Act's Lien Provisions to the Cobell Settlement (August 2012)

Related Stories:
Leaders on Navajo Nation call Cobell land buy-back effort a success (1/4)
Donald Trump supporter benefits from gutting of ethics office in Congress (01/03)
North Dakota tribe recovers ancestral lands taken by Army Corps (12/20)
Alex Jacobs: Indians on Donald Trump's team speak in termination tongue (12/19)
Donald Trump's Native American Coalition hosts meeting in D.C. (12/16)
President Obama signs land bills for two tribes in Oregon into law (12/15)
Three more tribes sign cooperative agreements for Cobell program (12/15)
National water bill offers a bunch of goodies for Indian Country (12/13)
Landowners on Colville Reservation see $25M in Buy-Back offers (12/12)
Mark Trahant: Navajo Republican lands job in Trump White House (12/12)
Bureau of Indian Affairs opens door to big shift in tribal economies (12/08)
Rep. Markwayne Mullin refutes speculation of 'privatizing' tribal land (12/07)
Congress passes long-awaited land bills for two tribes in Oregon (12/06)
Senate committee ready for hearing on Cobell buy-back program (12/05)
Senate committee schedules hearing on Cobell buy-back program (11/22)
Bureau of Indian Affairs transfers $14M in land proceeds to tribes (11/18)
Oneida Nation wins another decision in long-running land dispute (11/10)
Landowners on Crow Creek Sioux Reservation see $40M in Cobell buy-back offers (11/09)
Interior Department highlights achievements of Cobell buy-back program (11/01)
Obama administration fudges numbers to reach land-into-trust goal (10/12)
Tribes face uncertainty on land-into-trust as Obama era comes to a close (09/21)
Alaska tribes enter new era as state drops land-into-trust battle (08/16)
Rep. Tom Cole suffers defeat as land-into-trust fix goes down in House (07/13)
Controversial land-into-trust fix removed from appropriations bill (07/12)
Battle erupts over partial land-into-trust fix in appropriations bill (07/11)
Democrats embrace tribal sovereignty in platform for convention (07/08)
Tribes in Alaska celebrate long-awaited victory in trust land case (07/04)
Bureau of Indian Affairs still hoping to reach land-into-trust goal (06/30)
Partial land-into-trust fix being watched by non-Indian interests (06/27)
Another land-into-trust fix reportedly being drafted in the Senate (06/24)
Poarch Band seeks a partial Carcieri fix for existing trust lands (06/20)

Copyright © Indianz.Com
More headlines...
Stay Connected:
On Facebook

On Twitter

On Google+

On SoundCloud
Local Links:
Federal Register | Indian Gaming | Jobs & Notices | In The Hoop | Message Board
Latest News:
Tribes mount another fight after Trump approves another pipeline (3/24)
Native Sun News Today: Navajo elders continue long fight on land (3/24)
Editorial: Just another day of trying to keep up with the Trumps (3/24)
Elizabeth LaPensée: Video games encourage indigenous culture (3/24)
Mary Annette Pember: Native women work with youth offenders (3/24)
Tiffany Midge: Trump continues to conjure hero Andrew Jackson (3/24)
John Kane: Seneca Nation money train coming to end in New York (3/24)
Grand Ronde Tribes secure approval of school mascot agreement (3/24)
Editorial: Federal recognition for tribes in Virginia is long overdue (3/24)
Seneca Nation ends casino payments after sending $1.4B to state (3/24)
Appeals court hears slew of Indian cases amid focus on nominee (3/23)
Internal tribal disputes continue to trip up federal court system (3/23)
Mark Trahant: Indian health care gains ignored in political debate (3/23)
Native Sun News Today: Young fighters maintain Lakota tradition (3/23)
Ivan Star Comes Out: America loses its self-respect and humanity (3/23)
Rosalyn LaPier: Why water remains sacred to indigenous peoples (3/23)
Winona LaDuke: North Dakota spreads filth about water protectors (3/23)
Harold Monteau: Tribal governments are abusing their own people (3/23)
Alex Jacobs: Donald Trump in middle of the 'deep state civil war' (3/23)
Secretary Zinke announces 'doggy days' for Interior Department (3/23)
Keystone XL Pipeline route crosses Ponca Tribe's forced removal (3/23)
Indian lawmaker resigns after being charged for child prostitution (3/23)
Pinoleville Pomo Nation buys site of long-delayed casino project (3/23)
High court pick acknowledges poor treatment of 'sovereign' tribes (3/22)
Dakota Access submits another status update entirely under seal (3/22)
Court allows claim for alleged underpayment in Cobell settlement (3/22)
South Dakota tribes continue to extend Class III gaming compacts (3/22)
Cowlitz Tribe secures approval to offer liquor as casino debut nears (3/22)
Native Sun News Today: Community project continues at Pine Ridge (3/22)
Cronkite News: Copper mine on sacred site complains about delays (3/22)
Mary Annette Pember: Awareness for missing and murdered sisters (3/22)
Stacy Pratt: Visiting the gravesite of Andrew Jackson in Tennessee (3/22)
Murder charge filed for fatal shooting of Navajo Nation police officer (3/22)
Muckleshoot Tribe still seeking answers for fatal shooting by officer (3/22)
Hopland Band submits claim for county raid of marijuana operation (3/22)
Chukchansi Tribe sued for $21M by gaming development company (3/22)
Seminole Tribe accused of breaking contract with outlet at casino (3/22)
Indian Child Welfare Act survives attack from conservative groups (3/21)
Senate Committee on Indian Affairs schedules hearing on diabetes (3/21)
Ponca Tribe hosts 282-mile walk to retrace trail of forced removal (3/21)
more headlines...

Home | Arts & Entertainment | Business | Canada | Cobell Lawsuit | Education | Environment | Federal Recognition | Federal Register | Forum | Health | Humor | Indian Gaming | Indian Trust | Jack Abramoff Scandal | Jobs & Notices | Law | National | News | Opinion | Politics | Sports | Technology | World

Indianz.Com Terms of Service | Indianz.Com Privacy Policy
About Indianz.Com | Advertise on Indianz.Com

Indianz.Com is a product of Noble Savage Media, LLC and Ho-Chunk, Inc.