HELENA — The U.S. government has offered to buy land parcels in Arizona and Montana from 4,300 American Indians who have fractional ownership interests and give the land back to the tribes.
The Interior Department said Thursday it made offers totaling $19.2 million to 2,500 individual owners of land on Montana's Northern Cheyenne reservation and $77.6 million to 1,836 individual owners of parcels on Arizona's Gila River reservation.
The voluntary program is part of a $3.4 billion settlement of a class-action lawsuit filed by Elouise Cobell of Browning, Montana. The lawsuit claimed Interior Department officials mismanaged trust money held by the government for hundreds of thousands of Indian landowners.
The program aims to consolidate as many parcels as possible after an 1887 law split tribal lands into individual allotments that were inherited by multiple heirs.