More offers made to Makah landowners in property buyback plan

By Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News

NEAH BAY — The U.S. Department of the Interior has made $1.2 million in additional land purchase offers to nearly 600 owners of Makah land.

The newest offers are part of the federal allotment of $2.55 million to buy fractionated lots within the Makah tribe’s 30,000-acre reservation.

The offers to the Makah are part of a national federal program in which Interior will use $1.9 billion to buy land once allotted to tribal members with ownership that has become “fractionated” among heirs of the original owners — meaning some plots are owned by hundreds of people.

These offers will provide landowners who have “fractional interests” in parcels on the reservation with the opportunity to choose to sell their land, according to Interior, which added that it is offering fair-market value.

Land purchased will be put in trust for the Makah tribe and be under the control of the Makah Tribal Council, said Dale Denney, realty officer for the Makah.

“[The] tribe can use the land for economic development or home site assignments or for cultural preservation,” Denney said.

To take part in the program, owners must accept and return current purchase offers for fractionated lands on the Makah reservation by May 30, according to the federal department.

The Makah Realty Office estimates that 1,273 individuals hold interests in chunks of fractionated land on the Makah reservation.

The Makah reservation is the second in the nation to be part of Interior’s Land Buyback Program for Tribal Nations.

With the new purchase offers announced, Denney said the tribe has appraised 14 more allotments of land for purchase through the program.

This brings the total allotments the tribe has appraised since January, when Interior announced its first offers, to 28, Denney said.

Each allotment is roughly 10 acres, Denney said. Some are owned by hundreds of individual landowners.

All landowners are enrolled in a federally recognized treaty tribe, although not necessarily all are Makah, Denney explained.

Under the Dawes Act of 1887, tribal members were given allotments of land by the federal government, Denney has said.

As those original owners died, the land was often split among heirs who over time have taken ownership of mere fractions of property.

Since the first offers were made earlier this year, the Makah realty office reports that 127 of 531 sale offers have been accepted.

The total value of the accepted offers so far is $459,405, according to Makah Realty office figures.

The fractionated parcels are “all over the reservation,” Denney said.

Tribal and federal officials plan to hold a pair of informational meetings at the Makah Senior Center at 341 Bay View Ave. in Neah Bay on April 28 and 29.

The April 28 meeting will run from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., while the April 29 meeting will go from 9 a.m. to noon.

Officials will be on hand to answer questions about the buyback program and help fill out purchase offer packets.

Meetings also will be held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 30 at the Quileute Tribal Council Building at 90 Main St., LaPush, and from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. May 1 at the Elwha Klallam Heritage Center at 401 E. First St., Port Angeles.

Denney said meetings are being held at locations other than Neah Bay because some landowners with fractionated land interests are members of the Quileute or Lower Elwha Klallam tribes.

The federal program eventually will be expanded and offered to 150 tribes across the nation, including others on the North Olympic Peninsula.

The buyback stems from the $3.4 billion class-action settlement in 2012 of a suit brought by Elouise Cobell, a Blackfeet woman who brought suit against the U.S. government for mismanaging royalties from oil, gas, grazing and timber rights on tribal lands.

The Makah previously received $25 million from that settlement.

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Reporter Jeremy Schwartz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5074, or at jschwartz@peninsuladailynews.com.



Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Joe Smillie contributed to this report.

Last modified: April 19. 2014 6:37PM
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