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Leaders on Navajo Nation call Cobell land buy-back effort a success

Filed Under: Cobell Lawsuit and Settlement | National
More on: doi, land consolidation, navajo
     
   

The Navajo Code Talker Memorial in Window Rock, Arizona. Photo: Ron Cogswell

Leaders on the Navajo Nation are celebrating the tribe's participation in the Land Buy-Back Program for Tribal Nations.

According to the Interior Department, more than 25,000 individual landowners on the reservation participated in the program. They were paid more than $108 million for their fractional interests, which are being consolidated and transferred to the tribal government.

To celebrate the successful conclusion of the effort, Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye, the Navajo Nation Council and other tribal officials are hosting an event with Deputy Secretary Michael Connor, the second-in-command at Interior. The recognition ceremony takes place in Window Rock, Arizona, the capital of the Navajo Nation, on Thursday morning.

The Land Buy-Back 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 16, nearly 127,000 landowners have been paid more than $976 million for their fractional interests. The equivalent of more than 1.7 million acres has been transferred to tribes as a result.

Nationwide, about 40 percent of offers made through the program have been accepted by landowners. At Navajo, the acceptance rate was 43 percent, according to Interior.

The Buy-Back money will run out in less than three years if sales continue at the current rate, according to a status report released by the department in November. 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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