In another step to fulfill President Barack Obama’s commitment to help strengthen Indian communities, the Department of the Interior announced June 25 that offers have been sent to nearly 11,000 individual landowners with fractional interests at the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota.
Totaling more than $50 million, these offers will give landowners the opportunity to voluntarily sell their fractionated interests in land, which will be consolidated and held in trust for the Rosebud Sioux Tribe.
The Land Buy-Back Program for Tribal Nations (Buy-Back Program) implements the land consolidation component of the Cobell Settlement, which provided $1.9 billion to purchase fractional interests in trust or restricted land from willing sellers at fair market value within a 10-year period. Individuals who choose to sell their interests will receive payments directly into their IIM accounts. Consolidated interests are immediately restored to tribal trust ownership for uses benefiting the reservation community and tribal members.
“The success of the Buy-Back Program is vitally important to the future of Indian country,” Kevin K. Washburn, Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs, said. “Consolidating and returning these lands to tribes in trust will have enormous potential to unlock tribal community resources. We are committed to exhausting all efforts to make sure that individuals are aware of this historic opportunity to strengthen tribal sovereignty by supporting the consolidation of Indian lands.”
There are almost 245,000 owners of nearly 3 million fractional interests, spanning 150 Indian reservations, who are eligible to participate in the Program. Many see little or no economic benefit from what are often very small, undivided interests in lands that cannot be utilized due to their highly fractionated state.
In addition to receiving fair market value for their land based on objective appraisals, sellers also receive a base payment of $75 per offer, regardless of the value of the land. With these offers, the Buy-Back Program has sent more than 33,000 purchase offers to owners of fractionated interests. The Program has successfully concluded transactions worth more than $67 million and has restored the equivalent of nearly 190,000 acres of land to tribal governments. While the amounts offered to individuals have varied, a few owners have already received more than $100,000 for their interests.
In addition, sales of land interests will result in up to $60 million in contributions to the Cobell Education Scholarship Fund. This contribution is in addition to the amounts paid to individual sellers, so it will not reduce the amount landowners receive for their interests.
Rosebud landowners will have until August 16, 2014, to return accepted offers.