Teepees on the Warm Springs Reservation in Oregon. Photo: Edson Martins
Cobell Lawsuit & Settlement | National

Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs sign agreement for Cobell buy-back program





The Trump administration has entered into the first new agreement since announcing a change in direction for the Land Buy-Back Program for Tribal Nations.

Under the agreement, the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs will educate landowners on the reservation in Oregon about the program. The goal is to help them decide whether to sell their fractionated interests and have them restored to tribal ownership.

“The tribes look forward to working with the program to create cultural, residential, governmental and economic opportunities by consolidating fractionated lands for the benefit of our tribal community,” Chairman Austin Greene, Jr. said in a press release on Tuesday. “The tribes will be better equipped to manage our lands both on and off reservation. Land is important to us for the continued sovereignty of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, Wasco and Paiute people.”

Warm Springs is one of the last 20 reservations where the Trump team plans to carry out the program. A change in strategy was announced in July after new officials at the Department of the Interior raised concerns about how the funds were spent during the Obama era.

“The department remains committed to working with tribal governments on this important program which benefits tribal community members and strengthens tribal sovereignty," said John Tahsuda, a new member of the Trump team who is serving as the "acting" Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs. "Partnering with tribal governments is critical for effective outreach, informed decision-making, and to achieve the greatest consolidation of fractional interests and improved land management.”

The program was authorized by the $3.4 billion settlement to the Cobell trust fund lawsuit. It set aside $1.9 billion for the department to acquire fractional interests from willing sellers and have those interests restored to tribes, the original owners.

As of October 13, Indian landowners have accepted more than $1.24 billion in offers. Accounting for a fee of 15 percent, or $285 million, that the department is allowed to use for administrative costs, that leaves the program with less than $370 million to spend in the coming years.

In addition to narrowing the list of remaining reservations down to 20, the department said it will focus on lower-value land and mineral interests and in situations where a where a tribe, or even an individual Indian, is willing to contribute their own funds to assist with the program.

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

Related Stories:
Landowners on Spirit Lake Nation see nearly $13 million in Cobell Buy-Back offers (October 2, 2017)
Piikani Money Campaign educates Blackfeet Nation citizens about Cobell payouts (September 12, 2017)
Landowners from Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes receive Cobell buy-back offers (August 24, 2017)
Tribes weren't consulted about being removed from Cobell buy-back program (August 7, 2017)
Trump administration moves in new direction with Cobell buy-back program (July 31, 2017)
Bad River Band benefits from Land Buy-Back Program for Tribal Nations (July 13, 2017)
Interior Department sends out another $13.1M in Cobell buy-back offers (June 26, 2017)
Cobell buy-back program keeps on rolling toward eventual end (June 6, 2017)
Colville Tribes worried about future of Cobell buy-back program (May 31, 2017)
Yakama Nation landowners weigh offers as Cobell buy-back winds down (May 25, 2017)
Trump administration ready to let Cobell program run out of funds (May 24, 2017)
Landowners on two reservations in Nebraska receive Cobell buy-back offers (May 22, 2017)
House panel sets hearing on future of Cobell buy-back program (May 16, 2017)
Yakama Nation landowners see $68M in Cobell buy-back offers (April 24, 2017)
Interior Department makes 'final' transfer for Cobell scholarships (April 13, 2017)
Cobell buy-back program on path to run out of funds under Trump (March 30, 2017)