A number of Oregon’s native tribes stand poised to consolidate tribal land holdings now that the federal government has launched its long-awaited land buy-back program.
The federal government agreed to set aside $1.9 billion for the program, as part of its settlement of a large class-action lawsuit.
Bodie Shaw is the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ Northwest Deputy Regional Director for Trust Services.
He says a series of federal laws passed more than a century ago led to once communally-owned lands winding up in private — and mostly non-Indian — hands.
The funds will be used to purchase tribal trust lands, provided the current owner is willing to sell. Shaw says many small parcels can literally have hundreds of different owners.
“So management and authority and jurisdiction over that type of checkerboard has continually wreaked havoc when it comes to whether it be law enforcement, tribal jurisdiction and it’s just been a very difficult road that we’ve been on,” said Shaw.
Four Oregon tribes meet the requirements for participation in the program. The largest being the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs which has 44,000 acres eligible for buy-back.