The Colville Indian Reservation in Northeastern Washington could soon get $25 million worth of land returned to it as part of a federal land-buy-back program.
The federal government divided up land owned by Native Americans in the west about 130 years ago. Lawmakers hoped the Indians would take to a subsistence farming lifestyle, but the result was confusion over ownership.
“It’s a big problem.” Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation Chairman Michael Marchand.
“If someone received land allocation in the 1800s, then each generation that land got split up more and more, and so today we actually have some parcels that have 1,200 owners, which makes it impossible to do anything with the land, because there’s too many owners,” Marchand said.
Marchand said the program is unlikely to change, even with the incoming Trump administration, in part because of lengthy legal proceedings. Money for the buy-back program comes out of the $1.9 billion Cobell Settlement -- a case that was litigated for 15 years.
Land sales through the program are set to be complete by 2021.