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Buy-back program meant to return reservation land to tribes

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ASSOCIATED PRESS

CASPER, Wyo. – Land owners on a Wyoming Native American reservation will be able to sell their property to the federal government through a program meant to return ownership to the reservation’s two tribes.

The “Casper Star-Tribune” reported Feb. 23 that the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Land Buy-Back Program for tribal nations will enable the purchases on the Wind River Reservation. Participation in the program is voluntary and only tribal members with allotments will be eligible to sell their land.

Much of the property was allotted to tribal members by the government but is often underutilized due to a tangle of ownership. The original allotments have been passed down through generations for the reservation’s tribes to control, but tangled ownership webs can result in hundreds or thousands of owners of a single allotment.

After the property is returned to tribal jurisdiction, the land could be used for purposes including economic development, right-of-ways, cultural preservation and housing.

“I’ve seen allotments that have 1,000 owners,” said Lynnette Grey Bull, who is leading the federal program’s efforts on the reservation. While property is tied up among multiple owners, the land fails to serve any beneficial purpose, Grey Bull said. ‘This way, the land goes back to the tribes.”

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