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Buy-Back Program Seeks to Undo Tribal Land Fractionation, Boost Development

One of the biggest obstacles to business and housing development on the Pine Ridge reservation is fractionated land ownership. In 1887, Congress deeded tribal land to individual Indian owners. Those original 80- to 160-acre allotments have been sliced and diced by inheritance into unworkably small plots. A developer who wants to acquire a few acres to build a factory or a housing subdivision may have to cobble together land deals with dozens of separate owners.

Fortunately, Uncle Sam is stepping in to clear this obstacle to private enterprise. As part of the landmark Cobell settlement, the Department of Interior and Oglala Sioux Tribe have agreed on a Land Buy-Back Program to get titleholders to sell their land and consolidate ownership under tribal trust:

“It is a priority for the Obama Administration to reduce fractionation and implement the Buy-Back Program in as fair and equitable a manner as possible,” said Interior Secretary Sally Jewell. “Cooperative agreements give us an opportunity to work together, nation-to-nation, to ensure that the Program’s implementation is tailored to the specific priorities of each tribe. This agreement reflects a spirit of mutual respect and teamwork as we work together to address this opportunity.”

Interior holds about 56 million acres in trust for American Indians. More than 10 million acres are held for individual American Indians and nearly 46 million acres are held for Indian tribes. The fractionation of tribal lands has locked away resources and decision making from tribes. In Pine Ridge alone, there are approximately 6,028 tracts with 195,862 purchasable fractional interests. This has made it increasingly difficult to manage the land for economic development and other uses.

“I am very happy with the agreement and glad that was done,” said Oglala Sioux Tribe President Bryan V. Brewer. “Our Outreach workers are out meeting with the people in the communities. I am hoping that we will be able to start buying the fractionated land that is out there with the money that is available. We are also anticipating the first offer to be complete within the month” [U.S. Department of Interior, press release, 2013.12.09].

Notice that this program is cooperative and voluntary, not a land grab using eminent domain like the Keystone XL pipeline. This federal program will empower tribal entrepreneurs to invest in local economic development.

The Buy-Back Program is holding an outreach meeting in Kyle at the Little Wound School this Saturday, December 14, at 1 p.m. Central.


  1. interested party 2013.12.11

    An abattoir is exactly the kind of enterprise needed on the rez and with some luck the resources can be gathered to build one. Bison reserves, grassland preservation, sustainable development and tourism will help move tribal nations forward.

    Vivisect South Dakota and demand Statehood for the tribes and Mexico.

  2. John Tsitrian 2013.12.11

    I think the Dawes Act of 1887 gave cover to stealing land from the Indians. Knowing full well that Indians by tradition and culture didn't have a sense of individual land ownership, the Act nevertheless set a deadline for Indians who wanted to patent parcels of reservation land. Land that hadn't been patented by that deadline was available for acquisition by individuals and entities outside the reservations affected by the Act. Of course, the communaly-oriented tribes had few, if any, individuals step forward to claim land. The South Dakota Historical Society once published a map of land patents not held by Indians on the reservations in SD, and it was clear that the best land was gobbled up by white settlers nearby. I recall seeing a picture of a long queue of white people outside a local patent office waiting for the deadline to pass before they made their Congressionally-legitimized claims on reservation land.

  3. Douglas Wiken 2013.12.12

    If tribal land enterprises own the land, nobody owns it and the benefits will disproportionately go to the tribally connected or family. I don't know if there is a good solution to the problem, but something is needed. Years ago, a Native American stopped in saying he wanted to sell his share of some land adjacent to ours. At land prices then, his share or his mother's whichever he was selling was worth about $8.00. Now land can only be sold from one Native to another, so perhaps what might make sense would be for loans to Native Americans desiring to increase their share of land thus leaving land in control of individuals rather than in the hands of tribal systems which may change with every election.

    Years ago, SD:ASAP had agreements with several SD tribal governments. Our training officer got one of the tribal police forces trained in proper enforcement techniques and in the use of the rather complex breathalyzers of the time.

    Two weeks later, another family group got control and all the police we had trained were unemployed. Last year, a big expensive van was parked in Winner. It had drunken driving logos from one end to the other. It was a contract operation spending some time on reservations in this area. I talked to them, and it was quite a system, but several of them were being moved all over the US for the many tribal systems. I guess that is one way to maintain competent personnel.

  4. Roger Cornelius 2013.12.12

    Wilken's white man U.S. Congress is maintaining a 93% disapproval rating, his white man government in Pierre is pocketing tax dollars left and right, and he dares criticize tribal operations and government.

    He sits on his throne (or toilet) dispensing criticism and advice as if he has the answers and power to make a difference.

    When he can clean up his own governments, I'll advice Tribes to listen to him.

    In the meantime, he continues to be irrelevant, other than that he is the poster child for racism in South Dakota.

  5. Douglas Wiken 2013.12.13

    Roger, find a sacred rock and suck on it.

    I don't approve of the current idiocy in Pierre or Washington anymore than that in Pine Ridge or Rosebud. Partisan cronyism is no better than family cronyism. Both are bad.

  6. Roger Cornelius 2013.12.13

    Wilken, being a "privileged" white guy you should be able to do something about the "bad in Pierre and Washington.

  7. Douglas Wiken 2013.12.13

    Roger, with my privileged whiteness, I haven't been able to get a response from Pierre on why pharmacists can't give pneumonia shots in SD and save taxpayers some money. Nor have I gotten any response on whether or not there are people in SD nursing homes with a brain pressure problem that mimics Alzheimer's, nor have I gotten any response in requests for information on whether or not brain shunts that cure the brain pressure problem are being used in SD.

    I doubt Pierre will be influenced unless a lot of money flows that way and I don't intend to waste any more on that. If South Dakotans could wake up politically and socially, there might be some hope.

  8. Roger Cornelius 2013.12.13

    "If South Dakotans could wake up politically and socially, there might be some hope". - Wilken

    Now you're catching on Doug, be sure to include yourself in that sentiment.

  9. Douglas Wiken 2013.12.14

    No hope of you ever catching up, Roger. Going backward in time is not likely to be a good catchup strategy.

  10. Roger Cornelius 2013.12.14


    You can't possibly know where I'm going, don't assume, you'll hurt yourself.

    If wanting an honor song for Native American graduates at Chamberlain is going backward, maybe I am as well as the supporters here on madville.

    Wiken is going backward or forward, like most South Dakotans he is locked into Jim Crow South Dakota. A fitting place for him.

  11. leslie surrounded in woods twobear 2014.03.30

    ...comedy is.....""the belief that giving these oglala cash tax exempt for 1 yr "strengthening the community is hillarious" ,,,after a new car or internet spendings....the.moneyis gone...and the FMV they were paid is pathetic...and most of them may sign and sell on SIGHT UNSEEN land selling...due to duress...then,,,,it goes to a Tribal council ala "the tribe"" posse kamitatus ....and uneducated most likely......most likely,,,in the future,their will be a Maze of pipeline crossing this reservation,,and the tribal council will get bought.....and use force of emminent domains with the new POWERS they may inherit,as the indians sold out back (postulously speaking) in 2014 during the great LAND BUY OUT with college funding illusion....after a thousand offices for "admin" are finished with furniture..marble or quartz flooring..n yadda yadda...the billion dollars is gone.....and it all disappears..just like alll the great things that were gona happen if CASINO GAMBLING on reservations can get voted in....and or the LOTTERY...
    Its just another DELUSIONAL COMEDY IF ERRORS...

    ter good land buy back of 2014....
    Of which ....45 days only are given to DECIDE....(mind u these could include inept dreamlike true believers who

  12. leslie surrounded in woods twobear 2014.03.30

    Omg....did i write that....

    MY POINT IS ...45 days to tease a mess of OGLALA sioux ...or any reservation indians who live under "duress" is STEALING AND TAKING ADVANTAGE OF THE STEALING....very sad...very wrong....i so doubt the dear ELOISE COBELL would allow that...

  13. leslie surrounded in woods twobear 2014.03.31

    Attn...these shylocks give you 45 days to sell...hahahahaha....i love OBAMA........BUT he is almost at the end...they all start approving stuff ...dont forget...HE IS HALF LEPRECHAUN....btw.........

    THERES OIL ON THE PINE RIDGE REZ ....its been known since 1971 and before....but.....the oil drilling of the past was done when they called it WASHABAUGH county....that is where u will find the info....type in google search ---------------WASHABAUGH COUNTY OIL AND MINERALS POTENTIAL.......

    yu can read reports from 1971 and more....very amusing....especially the part on types of and uranium etc...and the mystery 3500-400ft "drill bit" left behind in ground from 1915-1917 from oil hunts.....have fun......dont sell to the WHITE MAN who loves you cause you have a different "god" from them......this is the CORE of their hatred......your considered "animals"...and this so called "scholarship" ...hahahahaha.......hillarious.......another money grab for "ADMIN" .....if you need proof on how "admin" funds disappear..along with promises......simply look at the areas where the people voted in for LOTTERY and CASINO gambling....hahahaha.......

  14. leslie surrounded in woods twobear 2014.04.18

    Reply Leslie surrounded in woods twobear says:Your comment is awaiting moderation. April 18, 2014 at 4:55 PM….on todays news..PINE RIDGE beyond the poorest of peoples living in USA…hahahaha….and yet they once were given and worshipped a non christian god on the sacred black hills…which later pretty much fills up fort knox with tonnage of gold…….lol…comical…and to this day…these pine ridge indians live a life similar to a bomb addled civilization like IRAQ OR AFGHANISTAN OR WORSE….and why..its ez…THEY WORSHIP A DIFFERENT GOD….THATS WHY…..making them godless savages that r going to hell anyway….so treat em like ANIMALS WITH VERMIN AND PESTILENCE….and today……..the GRAND SHYLOCKS and grand wizards of congress are releasing the LEPRECHAUN to appear to them with a pot of gold and a gold “coin ” for their LAND…AGAIN!!! HAHHAHAHA….and these ultra poor miniscule crushed people will TAKE IT!! ….SUCH BOMBASTIC EVIL….so

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