The Bureau of Indian Affairs hopes to start the land consolidation portion of the $3.4 billion, Cobell trust fund settlement by the end of 2013. The settlement provides $1.9 billion for the BIA to acquire fractionated interests from Indian beneficiaries. The land will then be returned to the local tribal governments.

"Our goal is to start making offers on fractionated land interests by the end of the year," says BIA Chair Kevin Washburn.

The land consolidation program is voluntary, and the settlement authorizes up to $60 million in scholarships to be awarded to Indian students based on how many people agree to sell their fractionated land interests. If the purchase price is less than $200, $10 will be contributed to the fund. If the purchase price is between $200 and $500, $25 will go into the fund. For purchases greater than $500, 5 percent will be paid to the fund.

"Until we start purchasing land, there won't be any funding in the scholarship fund," Washburn noted.

The terms of the Cobell settlement require the BIA to spend the $1.9 billion in land consolidation funds within 10 years. The BIA gets to keep an administrative fee of 15 percent, or $285 million.  

Details on the BIA's process for purchasing land under the Cobell settlement can be accessed HERE.