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Land Buy Back Program for Tribal Nations

The Land Buy-Back Program for Tribal Nations (formerly called the Cobell Land Consolidation Program)  is part of the $3.4 billion Indian Trust Settlement resulting from the Cobell v. Salazar class action lawsuit. As part of the Settlement, $1.9 billion is earmarked for the Buy-Back Program in an effort to address the growing problem of fractionated ownership through the consolidation of undivided interests in Indian trust land titles.

Latest News

Deadline Approaching for Land Buy-Back Program Open Solicitation Period (2/27/14)

Interior Announces First Purchase Offers to Facilitate Cobell Land Consolidation Efforts (12/18/13)

Interior, Oglala Sioux Tribe Announce First Cooperative Agreement to Facilitate Purchase of Fractionated Land under Cobell Settlement (12/9/13)

Interior Expands Land Buy-Back Process Across Indian Country (11/8/13)

Interior Releases Valuation Plan for Land Buy-Back Program (10/29/13)

Interior’s Land Buy-Back Program for Tribal Nations Launches Comprehensive Web Resource for Landowners and Tribes (8/15/13)

Interior Announces Plans for Land Buy-Back Program for Tribal Nations (12/17/12)

Interior Secretarty Salazar Announces Final Steps on Cobell Litigation and Implementation of Settlement (11/27/12)

Controversial Liens Removed from Cobell Settlement (8/15/12)
Indian Country Today Media Network article featuring ILTF and Cris Stainbrook

Important Websites

Land Buy-Back Program for Tribal Nations
This website contains up-to-date information about consultation meetings and other news related to the program.

Indian Trust Settlement
This website is managed by the Cobell v. Salazar plaintiffs and contains all relevant up-to-date information about the Settlement.

Important Documents

Updated Implementation Plan from DOI (11/8/13)

ILTF Comments on Buy-Back Program Implementation Plan (3/4/13)

Land Buy-Back Program for Tribal Nations Initial Implementation Plan (12/17/12)

Letter from Rep. Cole to David Hayes (8/1/12)

Letter from David Hayes to Rep. Cole (8/10/12)

ILTF Comments on CLCP Draft Plan (3/5/12)

Cobell Land Consolidation Program Draft Plan (1/31/12)

ILTF Amicus Brief (12/22/11)

ILTF Comments Regarding CLCP Announcement (10/11)

Cobell Land Consolidation Program Announcement (6/13/11)

ILTF's Involvement

Because of the substantial resources involved, this program has the potential to have a major impact on tribal land management and tribal economies and could potentially go a long way toward addressing fractionated ownership of Indian land title. However, the success of this program depends entirely on how well it responds to the needs and interests of Indian nations, many of whom have been operating their own successful undivided interest purchase programs for years.

Since development of the Cobell Land Consolidation Program (CLCP) was first announced by Deputy Secretary of the Interior David Hayes in June 2011, ILTF has been working to ensure that the voices of Indian nations are represented in the program’s development and that the program itself offers a fair and efficient means to consolidate individual interests and address the growing problem of fractionated land title.

ILTF has convened several meetings with tribal leaders throughout Indian Country to discuss the proposed CLCP draft plan and subsequent Land Buy-Back Program for Tribal Nations Initial Implementation Plan. As a result of those meetings, ILTF submitted comments to Secretary Salazar and others that incorporate the concerns and interests of tribal leaders and communicate a set of recommendations for the plan. (See "Important Documents" above for more information.)

In addition, on December 22, 2011 ILTF submitted an Amicus Brief to the United States Court of Appeals, urging the speedy resolution of appeals to the Cobell Settlement in the interest of commencing implementation of the CLCP as soon as possible. On June 20, 2011, the U.S. Court of Appeals rejected the Appellees arguments, clearling the way for the Settlement's final approval.

ILTF’s Position

While ILTF is eager to see the Buy-Back Program implemented, we also still plan to advocate for Indian nations and push for the following recommendations in respect to the existing plan:

  • Each Indian nation with allotted trust land should be able to choose whether or not its tribal nation will run the Buy-Back Program on its reservation.
  • Indian nation priorities for acquisition of fractional interests of trust lands should control every aspect of the Buy-Back Program implementation.
  • Accurate data on allotments and owners of every interest in each allotment must be made available to each Indian nation before implementing the Buy-Back Program.  BIA and OST must ensure the accuracy of this data.
  • Liens should not be placed on the fractional interests acquired under Buy-Back Program, and if liens are placed on these acquisitions, the liens should be immediately waived utilizing secretarial authority provided by ILCA.
  • Mass appraisal methods can and should be utilized and tribal appraisal resources relied upon where possible.
  • Distribution of the settlement funds (both purchase pool and administrative cost pool) to Indian nations for program implementation should be based on the number of allotments on the reservation in 1934, the number of undivided interests on the reservation currently and the current number of trust allotments with fractionated title on the reservation.
  • Scholarship funds should be allocated to tribal scholarship programs based on the acquisitions from the corresponding reservations.


December 10, 2013
Oglala Sioux Tribe Land Buy-Back Program Open House and Powwow

November 14, 2013
Article featuring ILTF on the Pros and Cons of Accelerated Buy-Back Program

August 15, 2012
ILTF and Cris Stainbrook featured in ICT article: "Controversial Liens Removed from Cobell Settlement"

August 13, 2012
Washington Post: "Government won't put liens on divided tribal lands."

August 10, 2012
David Hayes: "Lien Provisions of ILCA do not Apply to Cobell Settlement" 

March 16, 2012
Interior Extends Public Comment Period on Cobell Land Consolidation Draft Plan

February 3, 2012
National Commission on Indian Trust Administration and Reform Announces First Meeting

February 2, 2012 
Interior Seeks Comments on Cobell Land Consolidation Draft Plan

Cobell Land Consolidation Program Draft Plan

December 22, 2011
Indian Land Tenure Foundation Files Amicus Brief in United States Court of Appeals

June 13, 2011
First Regional Tribal Consultation on Cobell Trust Land Consolidation Program Announced

Deputy Secretary David Hayes Letter - Trust Land Consolidation Program

December 8, 2009
Secretary Ken Salazar Letter - Individual Indian Trust Management

Tribal Leaders' Trust Land Consolidation Program Meeting

On September 20, 2011, Indian Land Tenure Foundation facilitated a meeting of tribal leaders and tribal land managers on reservations directly impacted by the Cobell Trust Land Consolidation Programon. The meeting was held at Grand Casino Hinckley, Minnesota and was hosted by Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe with support from the Ho-Chunk Nation. Representatives from 27 tribes participated and helped to shape the Foundation's recommendations.

The comments ILTF developed as a result of this meeting and additional feedback it received afterwards are provided in the link below. These comments were submitted for consideration to Secretary Salazar.

Cobell Trust Land Consolidation Program - ILTF Comments

The following materials were shared with all meeting attendees and those who were invited but could not attend.

Recommendations from the Cobell Settlement Tribal Consultations on Indian Land Consolidation Program

Land Consolidation Survey Results

Quinault Indian Nation, Land Consolidation Under the Cobell Settlement (PowerPoint)

Quinault Indian Nation, Testimony at the Seattle Regional Tribal Consultation Meeting

Fort Peck Comments on Land Consolidation Plan under the Cobell Settlement

OIG Report - Coordination of Efforts to Address Indian Land Fractionation

OIG Report -  Indian Land Consolidation Advisory: Need for an Appraisal Tracking System

OIG Report - Indian Land Consolidation Advisory: Mass Appraisals of Indian Lands

Indian Land Consolidation Program Background

ILTF believes the original Indian Land Consolidation Program (ILCP), while well intentioned, was fundamentally flawed, and that tribal input of suggested improvements for the new Cobell Trust Land Consolidation Program is imperative.

The original program was designed to assist in the reduction of fractionation of Indian land titles across those reservations that were allotted. The program’s stated mission is: 

“To acquire as many fractionated interests as economically feasible; to consolidate these land interests into tribal ownership to enable better tribal utilization; management, promote and enhance tribal self-determination, economic, social, and cultural development needs while reducing government administrative costs.”

As most tribes and tribal members know, fractionation of land ownership reduces the ability of tribes and individual Indian landowners to realize the full potential of the land assets. Many cases of severe fractionation have resulted in an undue amount of decision making authority in the hands of the federal government’s bureaucracy.

The federal government is now trying to solve the problem it created long ago by using $1.9 billion of the settlement funds to buy back undivided interests from tribal members. Unfortunately, the federal government has shown little or no interest in conducting this program in the best interests of the tribes or Indian people as demonstrated by their failure to work with existing tribal consolidation programs.

Now tribes have the opportunity to put programming in place to make this land consolidation program meet tribal goals and assist tribal members.

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