The Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation will participate in another round of buy-backs of “fractionated” lands to be used for the benefit of tribal members.
The U.S. Department of the Interior announced Thursday that the CTUIR had signed an agreement to participate in the Land Buy-Back Program for Tribal Nations again after their first round of buy-backs in 2014.
The land consolidation program is part of the Cobell Settlement, which provided $1.9 billion for tribes to purchase land that was originally allocated to individual tribal members and now has as many as 100 different owners due to laws that required the land to be passed down evenly to all heirs each time an owner dies.
If the multitude of heirs agree to sell the land to tribal trust ownership at fair market value, it can be used for projects that benefit the reservation community and all tribal members, from farming to housing projects to new roads.
“The Umatilla Tribe welcomes the return of the Land Buy-Back Program to our reservation, which we see as a means to further our tribal priority of restoring our reservation land base as intended by our 1855 Treaty with the U.S. government,” Gary Burke, chairman of the CTUIR board of trustees, said in a statement.
According to a news release from the Department of the Interior, the department has entered into agreements with 47 tribal nations since the buy-back program was created, transferring more than 2.2 million acres of land to tribal governments. To maximize effectiveness, for this round the department is focusing on locations such as the Confederated Indian Reservation where the program has been used successfully in the past.
“The continued success of the Buy-Back Program will depend on collaborations with tribal governments and outreach to individual landowners,” Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs John Tahsuda said in a statement. “We look forward to working with the Umatilla Confederated Tribes to achieve our mutual goals.”
In December 2014 Bill Tovey, then economic and community development director of the CTUIR, told the East Oregonian the CTUIR had purchased 4,250 acres through the program and had a second wave of buy-backs in the works. At the time, 36 percent of land owners who had been approached had agreed to sell, with the CTUIR focusing first on properties that had more than 20 owners.
More information is available at www.doi.gov/buybackprogram/FAQ or landowners can call the trust beneficiary call center at 888-678-6836.