The Round Valley Indian Tribes (RVIT) is breaking ground as the first California tribe to initiate the Land Buy-Back Program (LBBP). RVIT has established a LBBP office. Our job is to be the liaison between the Department of the Interior, Office of Special Trustee, IOS, and California Central Agency, Realty, as well as the land tract owners.
Our first goal is to locate all land tract owners to ensure their contact information is current. We will endeavor to locate those whose Where About Unknown.
Our second goal is to educate and assist landowners regarding the Cobell LBBP and its process. To this end, we will hold four Pre-Offer and four Post-Offer Workshops in four locations: Covelo, Ukiah, Santa Rosa, and Sacramento.
Once the landowner has received their purchase offer, they will have 45 days to sign and complete any requirements. Our job then is to assist landowners with any questions and the paperwork they may need to complete their transaction.
It has been called the largest class action lawsuit against the United States in U.S. history. The suit is the result of over 100 years of abusive federal Indian policy and gross negligence in the management of Indian trust lands. Eloise Cobell, a Blackfoot Indian from Montana and banker by profession, filed the lawsuit on behalf of hundreds of thousands of individual Indians in 1996 after finding many discrepancies in the management of funds for lands held in trust by the United States in her job as treasurer for the Blackfoot tribe. The United States has a fiduciary responsibility to manage the lands to the best benefit of tribes and individual Indians, but as the lawsuit revealed, for over 100 years the government failed in its duties to accurately account for the income generated by the leases, let alone pay the revenues to the Indians. The Cobell case is hinged in large part on whether or not an accurate accounting of the IIM accounts could be determined. After over 15 years of litigation the defendant and the plaintiffs both agreed that an accurate accounting was not possible and in 2010 a settlement was finally reached for a total of $3.4 billion. The settlement, known as the Claims Settlement Act of 2010, was divided into three sections: $1.5 billion was created for an Accounting/Trust Administration fund (to be distributed to IIM account holders), $60 million is set aside for Indian access to higher education, and the remaining $1.9 billion sets up the Trust Land Consolidation Fund, which provides funds for tribal governments to purchase individual fractionated interests, consolidating the allotments into once again communally held land.
As tracts (or “allotments”) of tribal lands are passed down through generations, they gain more and more individual owners. Many allotments now have hundreds and even thousands of individual owners. Because it is difficult for owners to agree on how to use the land, these allotments often lie idle and can’t be used for any economically beneficial purpose.
This Program seeks to combat the historic fractionation problem and unify tribal lands. The Cobell Program has visited and appraised the eligible tribal lands and will make purchase offers to eligible landowners. If your land is selected by the Program for purchasing, you will receive an offer packet describing your land’s appraisal value as well as instructions on how to sell your land. You will receive fair market value any land interests you decide to sell, based on your share in the whole tract, plus $75 per offer packet.
By selling your interests through the Land Buy-Back Program, you may create opportunities to make Indian lands more productive for the Tribe and our community. Any land interests sold will remain in trust, but ownership will be transferred to the Tribe. The Tribe could use the land, for example, to build homes, community centers or businesses, or for tribal preservation.
The next step is to contact the Trust Beneficiary Call Center (888-678-6836) to register your desire to sell your interests, provide your current contact information, and ask any questions you may have.