Following U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell’s recent visit with the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, the U.S. government has announced an offer of $8.3 million for parcels of land on the Flathead Indian Reservation.
The Interior Department is making offers to 2,100 individual landowners with fractional interests on the reservation. The landowners have until Oct. 24 to accept the offers.
The voluntary program is part of 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. The program aims to consolidate as many parcels as possible after an 1887 law split tribal lands into individual allotments that were inherited by multiple heirs on the reservation.
Individuals who choose to sell their interests receive payments directly into their Individual Indian Money (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 reflected in our ongoing collaborations with tribal governments and active outreach to individual owners,” said Deputy Secretary Mike Connor, who made the announcement Monday. “We know that tribal leaders can best explain the value of reducing fractionated lands and the significant benefit to Indian Country, and we are committed to making sure that individuals are aware of this historic opportunity to strengthen tribal sovereignty by supporting the consolidation of Indian lands.”
Sales of land interests will also 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.
Landowners can contact the Trust Beneficiary Call Center at (888) 678-6836 with questions about their purchase offers. Individuals can also visit their local Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians (OST), or Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) office or find more information at www.doi.gov/buybackprogram/landowners in order to make informed decisions about their land.
Individual participation is voluntary. A decision to sell land for restoration to tribes does not impact a landowner’s eligibility to receive individual settlement payments from the Cobell Settlement, which are being handled by the Garden City Group. Inquiries regarding Settlement payments should be directed to (800) 961-6109.
Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.
Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.