Tester meets with Crow tribal leaders

Senator hears Tribe’s concerns over continued land purchase delays

(U.S. SENATE) – Senator Jon Tester this week met with Crow tribal leaders, including Chairman Darrin Old Coyote, to talk about how to speed up the Land Buy-Back program.

In Tester’s Washington, D.C. office, Crow leaders told the Senator about their concerns with the U.S. Interior Department’s delay in finalizing cooperative agreements with tribes. These agreements would support voluntary land purchases through the Land Buy-Back Program, which began over a year ago.

Selling land to the Interior Department to be held in trust would help consolidate millions of divided interests in tribal lands and make it easier for tribes to have more control of their lands.

Tester, Montana’s only member of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, pledged to continue pushing the Interior Department to complete the cooperative agreement process for land purchases.

“Montana tribes have waited too long to reclaim their lands,” Tester said. “This program will give landowners the compensation they deserve and encourage new development, and should absolutely move forward. We can’t let a lack of transparency and continued unnecessary delays stand in the way of progress in Indian Country.”

The Land Buy-Back Program stems from the historic Cobell Settlement, which provides funding for the Interior Department to purchase land interests from individual Indians and transfer them to be held in trust for the tribe with jurisdiction. The Cobell Settlement gives the Interior Department ten years to complete the Land Buy-Back Program.

Tester is a long-time advocate for Montana’s tribes. He works closely with the Crow tribe on a range of issues, including tax credits and water issues. He brought Indian Affairs Chairman Maria Cantwell to Montana in September and will introduce a new Native American language immersion bill later this week, an issue that was first brought to him by the Crow Tribe.

Crow Leaders Alvin Not Afraid and Del Laverdure joined Chairman Old Coyote at the meeting. Chairman Old Coyote previously travelled to Washington, D.C. in December to testify to the Senate Indian Affairs Committee about the Buy-Back program and meet with Tester.