4 tribes to help launch $1.9 billion program to restore divided Native American lands

The Interior Department says it is ready to start a program to help Native American tribes buy parcels of reservation land that have accumulated multiple owners.

The purchases announced Tuesday are part of the settlement of the Cobell lawsuit over government mismanagement of Indian land royalties.

Outgoing Interior deputy secretary David Hayes says purchase offers should begin at the end of the year and speed up in coming years.

The program will start with the Pine Ridge, S.D.; Crow, Mont. and Makah, Wash. reservations and the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate of South Dakota tribe and involve 10 to 12 tribes by year's end.

Allotting reservation land to individual tribe members, who passed it to heirs, was once a government method for assimilating American Indians. Some parcels now have thousands of owners.