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Landowners on two reservations in Nebraska receive Cobell buy-back offers






A sign promoting the Land Buy-Back Program for Tribal Nations on the Omaha Reservation in Walthill, Nebraska. Photo: Omaha Land Buy-Back

Landowners on two reservations in Nebraska are the latest to see offers from the Land Buy-Back Program for Tribal Nations.

The Department of the Interior sent out $28.1 million in offers to about 3,500 landowners on the Winnebago Reservation. Another $16.9 million in offers was directed to about 2,000 the Omaha Reservation.

“The goal of the Buy-Back Program is to consolidate fractional interests, which facilitates more effective land use and trust management,” John McClanahan, the director of the program, said in a press release on Monday. “This Program is making a significant difference for tribal communities, such as securing land for critical infrastructure projects. We look forward to improving opportunities for these locations through the Program, recognizing that both Omaha and Winnebago have a significant number of fractional interests.”

The program puts money into the hands of tribal citizens by acquiring their fractional interests in trust properties across Indian Country. The interests are then transferred to tribes, the original owners of the land prior to the allotment era.

As of May 12, more than 58,000 tribal citizens have received more than $1.17 billion for their interests. The equivalent of more than 2.1 million acres has been returned to tribes as a result.

If the program continues at the current pace, it will run out of its $1.9 billion allocation in less than three years or maybe even sooner. The House Subcommittee on Indian, Insular and Alaska Native Affairs is holding a hearing this Wednesday to discuss the future of the initiative. Jim Cason, the "acting" deputy secretary at Interior, is the sole person on the witness list.

House Subcommittee on Indian, Insular and Alaska Native Affairs Notice:
Oversight Hearing on the Status and Future of the Cobell Land Consolidation Program (May 23, 2017)

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