- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 24, 2015

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) - The federal Department of the Interior announced Tuesday that it’s sending out another round of offers to more than 11,000 people who own land on the Rosebud Indian Reservation as part of the effort by tribal governments to consolidate reservation parcels owned by multiple people.

The department is extending more than $34 million in purchase offers to landowners with fractional interests on the reservation after more than $14 million in land deals were accepted in the initial wave of offers last summer, said Morgan Rodman, a senior adviser on tribal relations for the buyback program.

Land buyback programs aim to help Native American tribes buy parcels of reservation land that have accumulated multiple owners under fractional allotments. The parcels that get sold are then consolidated and held in trust for tribes, which often use the land for things like housing, economic development or cultural preservation, Rodman said.

“The success of this program is a vital component of this administration’s commitment to restoring tribal homelands and remedying the harms caused by the repudiated allotment policy,” Interior Department Deputy Secretary Mike Conner said in a statement.

The initial wave of the program that began last summer netted the Rosebud Sioux Tribe approximately 31,000 acres in all, Rodman said. Now, he said, the department is sending out buyback offers again in hopes that more people who own land on Rosebud decide to sell.

“I think the program is gaining momentum and information is getting out there,” he said. “That’s why the demand is there to provide another offer at Rosebud.”

The buyback program stems from the settlement - known as the Cobell Settlement - of a nearly 17-year lawsuit over more than a century’s worth of mismanaged trust royalties. The 1887 Dawes Act split tribal lands into individual allotments - 80- to 160-acre parcels, in most cases - that have been passed down to multiple heirs. The Rosebud Indian Reservation is among the most splintered in the U.S., with land interests owned by various individuals, including members of other tribes, the Department of the Interior said.

Nationwide, there are about 245,000 owners of nearly 3 million fractional interests, spanning 150 American Indian reservations, who are eligible to participate in the buyback program, the Interior Department said.

Interested sellers who own land on Rosebud have 45 days, until May 16, to return accepted offers in the pre-paid postage envelopes provided.

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