- Associated Press - Monday, March 9, 2015

BELLINGHAM, Wash. (AP) - The federal government says the Lummi Nation of northwest Washington state has joined a $1.9 billion tribal lands consolidation program.

Deputy Secretary of the Interior Mike Connor announced Monday the tribe signed a cooperative agreement with the federal government to participate in the land buyback program.

The program is part of a $3.4 billion settlement of a class-action lawsuit filed by Elouise Cobell of Browning, Montana, who died in 2011. The lawsuit claimed Interior Department officials mismanaged trust money held by the government for hundreds of thousands of Indian landowners.

Lummi Nation Chairman Timothy Ballew says the move will allow the tribe to place previously unusable fractioned lands into trust for the tribe.

The program has so far paid nearly $350 million to Native Americans landowners and restored the equivalent of about 540,000 acres to tribal governments.

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