The Cobell Settlement Agreement provides for a $1.9 Billion Trust Land Consolidation Fund to be used over a ten-year period to purchase fractional interests.
As tracts (or "allotments") of land are passed down through generations, they gain more and more individual owners.
The purpose of the Dawes Act and the subsequent acts that extended its initial provisions was purportedly to protect Indian property rights, particularly during the land rushes of the 1890s, but in many instances the results were vastly different. The land allotted to the Indians included desert or near-desert lands unsuitable for farming. In addition, the techniques of self-sufficient farming were much different from their tribal way of life. Many Indians did not want to take up agriculture, and those who did want to farm could not afford the tools, animals, seed, and other supplies necessary to get started. There were also problems with inheritance. Often young children inherited allotments that they could not farm because they had been sent away to boarding schools. Multiple heirs also caused a problem; when several people inherited an allotment, the size of the holdings became too small for efficient farming.
The Secretary of the Interior established the Land Buy-Back Program for Tribal Nations to implement the land consolidation aspects of the settlement. In consultation and cooperation with tribes, the Program seeks to reduce historic fractionation through this unique opportunity for you, your land, and your community.
The Program involves collaboration with Interior, tribes, and individuals - to reduce the number of fractional interests in tracts of trust or restricted lands.
The Nez Perce Tribe decided to enter into a cooperative agreement in April 2016. (see article) to conduct outreach and education.