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|Thursday, 18 December, 2014|
By LORI EDMO-SUPPAH
FORT HALL — The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes is among the communities participating in the Department of Interior Cobell Buy Back program.
Planning, outreach, mapping, mineral evaluations, appraisals or acquisitions are expected to happen through the middle of 2017 according to the DOI.
The Cobell Settlement 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.
According to a letter the Tribes wrote to congressional representatives in 2013, the Buy Back goal is to address problematic fractional land interests on reservations. Fractionation results from an individual’s ownership interest in land being divided at death among all of his or her heirs. The land itself is almost never physically divided. As time progresses and each generation passes away, the number of owners grows more rapidly.
The Fort Hall Reservation has one of the worst problems with fractionation as there are over 2,500 fractionated tracts on the reservation. The fractionated tracts account for roughly 269,000 acres. The Fort Hall Reservation is comprised of over 544,000 acres that means upwards of half of the land on the rez is fractionated.
The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes have been allocated $36.2 million to purchase land and is listed thirteenth on the list for fractionation of land. The Wind River Reservation is ranked twelfth and is allocated $46.2 million.
Tribal attorney Mark Echo Hawk said the Tribes Land Use Policy Commission developed a general acquisition priority list over a year ago as part of the Tribes request to get the Buy Back program implemented sooner at Fort Hall.
In the meantime, the LUPC has been working on a particularized acquisition priority list including tract numbers, he said. “The Commission welcomes public comment and will be holding an informational notice and comment meeting on the subject in the coming months before submitting the list to council for approval.”
DOI officials say there are approximately 150 reservations with 2.9 million purchasable fractional interests owned by more than 243,000 individuals (the whereabouts of approximately13 percent of the individuals are currently unknown.)
Fraction of Indian land stems from the General Allotment or Dawes Act of 1887 that allowed tribal lands to be allotted to individual tribal members often in 80 or 160 acre parcels.
The DOI hopes to enter into cooperative agreements with interested tribes that will define each tribe’s role in implementing the program on its reservation. The Pine Ridge Reservation has the most fractionated tracts with 6,028 and are allocated $125.4 million.