Students and teachers walk down a hill at the Lakota Waldorf School, located on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Photo by Kevin Abourezk

Pine Ridge Reservation sees $93 million in Cobell buy-back offers

The Land Buy-Back Program for Tribal Nations has returned to the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota for a second time.

The Department of the Interior recently sent out more than $93 million in offers to owners of fractional interests on the reservation. Interested sellers -- the program is entirely voluntary -- have until November 5 to respond.

“The Buy-Back Program is excited to implement again at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, which was where we made our first purchase offers to landowners nearly five years ago,” said director John McClanahan said on Wednesday.

To inform landowners, engage in outreach and facilitate purchases, the Oglala Sioux Tribe entered into two cooperative agreements for the program. The original one was signed back in 2013, during the Obama era, and a newer one was announced earlier this month.

“Through our collaboration with the Oglala Sioux Tribe we saw great success during the initial round of implementation, which resulted in the consolidation of more than 194,000 equivalent acres with potential surface use, such as farming, and more than 98,000 equivalent acres with subsurface rights," McClanahan said. "The consolidated land aided in subsequent tribal housing and economic development projects. We will again strive to maximize opportunities for the tribe and landowners during this implementation.”

During the first round, which began in late 2013, more than 9,300 individual Indians on the reservation received nearly $111 million for their fractionated lands according to sales data from Interior. The equivalent of about 293,000 acres was restored to tribal ownership.

This time around, offers have been sent to nearly 16,000 landowners. With its agreement, the tribe hopes to encourage informed participation.

“The Oglala Sioux Tribe is pleased to enter into an agreement with the department,” President Troy “Scott” Weston said earlier this month. “Through this agreement, we look forward to providing outreach to tribal landowners regarding the Land Buy-Back Program. Our collaboration with the department will enable landowners to voluntarily sell their fractionated trust land interests in order to benefit our tribe.”

The Land Buy-Back Program was created by the $3.4 billion settlement to the Cobell trust fund lawsuit. To stem the fractionation of Indian lands, in which parcels become owned by a growing number of individuals, and to promote tribal self-determination, $1.9 billion was set aside for the initiative.

As of September 7, individual Indians have received nearly $1.28 billion for their fractional interests. The equivalent of nearly 2.18 million acres has been restored to tribes, the original owners of the land.

Taking into account a $285 million administrative fee that goes to the BIA, the program has about $345 million remaining in the account. The Trump administration has said it use the money to send offers to landowners on 20 reservations, included 12 where offers had gone out during the Obama years.

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

Join the Conversation

Related Stories
Three tribes sign cooperative agreements for Cobell land program (September 4, 2018)
(August 15, 2018)
Landowners from Umatilla Tribes see another round of Cobell buy-back offers (June 19, 2018)
Warm Springs landowners see nearly $3.7 million in Cobell offers (March 22, 2018)
Umatilla Tribes enter cooperative agreement for Cobell land program (March 1, 2018)
Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs sign agreement for Cobell buy-back program (October 18, 2017)
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)