Land buy-back program could bring economic boost to the Pine Ridge Reservation
A land buy-back program promises to bring a huge economic boost to the Pine Ridge Reservation. It is all due to the Cobell Settlement, which provided $1.9 billion for Indian landowners who want to sell their fractionated interests, and 150 tribes are sharing that money.
Malcolm Horse is participating in the Land Buy-Back Program for Tribal Nations. He says he wasn't using his land.
"I am hoping that they can do something a lot better with it than not being used. There are a lot of places in the area where no one is really farming, there is a lot of room to create buildings to start businesses. Something to create jobs for our people hopefully in the future," said Horse.
So far, members of the Oglala Sioux Tribe have received more than $10 million for their fractionated interests. Some use their buy-back money to open businesses. Horse says he'll put his towards savings.
"For me, mine is not very much so I'll probably just go out, probably put a little money in the bank," said Horse.
Those involved say this could help the economy on the Pine Ridge Reservation.
"So it's better that if the tribe gets it back then they can start urban development, parks, and trailer courts and stuff so people can have more places to live too," said Jovita Seda, a land purchasing clerk.
The Department of the Interior made more than $100 million in offers to about 16,000 landowners. Hundreds of people are coming in each day to participate.
"There are still more packets coming. It's going to be hectic for the next few days or so," said Seda.
Organizers say others can learn from what they are doing.
"We are identifying it as a pilot project for other tribes throughout the United States. The Oglala Sioux Tribe is kind of setting a precedence out there," said Steve Her Many Horses, Oglala Sioux Land Buy-Back Director.
Horse says he wants his land to be put to good use.
"I am hoping that they will find something positive with our land," said Horse.
This program is voluntary so landowners don't have to sell. But they have until May 2 to decide whether to accept the purchase offers.