Social Links Search User Login Menu

Navajo Land Buy-Back Program

The Land Buy-Back Program for the Navajo Nation works to unify fractionated tribal land bases that resulted from the failed historical policy of allotment. Fractionation affects approximately 150 locations and results in tracts of land with potentially hundreds of owners. Over the next decade, the Program and various tribes will partner to help communities consolidate these lands across Indian Country.

Navajo Land Buy-Back Program's Educational Video (NAVAJO)
Navajo Land Buy-Back Program's Educational Video (ENGLISH)
  • About Us
  • History
  • Faqs

NBBP Outreach Plan

  • The Program will provide education to Navajo allotment owners (shareholders).
  • Develop and maintain a mailing list of shareholders including attempts of creating contact information on those whereabouts are unknown. (WAUs).
  • Notify eligible shareholders of the opportunity to sell their interests.
  • Identify shareholders willing to sell.
  • Disseminate and provide information on the Program including answering questions and offering services to help complete their interest packets.

The Program Office will follow the details outlined for these goals, including Pre-Offer and Post-Offer Outreach activities which may not be limited to: hosting outreach events, attending local, community, agency-wide meetings, releasing public service announcements, paid advertisements in print, radio, TV, and social media, distribute flyers, and posters, allowing for walk-in sessions, mailing of educational material and follow-up visits to interested residents.

The Navajo BBP Offices will perform only outreach activities to inform the public about the opportunity for allotment owners to consider selling their share interests.

The General Allotment Act ("Dawes Act")

Approved on February 8, 1887, "An Act to Provide for the Allotment of Lands in Severalty to Indians on the Various Reservations," known as the Dawes Act, emphasized severalty, the treatment of Native Americans as individuals rather than as members of tribes.

Federal Indian policy during the period from 1870 to 1900 marked a departure from earlier policies that were dominated by removal, treaties, reservations, and even war. The new policy focused specifically on breaking up reservations by granting land allotments to individual Native Americans. Very sincere individuals reasoned that if a person adopted white clothing and ways, and was responsible for his own farm, he would gradually drop his Indian-ness and be assimilated into the population. It would then no longer be necessary for the government to oversee Indian welfare in the paternalistic way it had been obligated to do, or provide meager annuities that seemed to keep the Indian in a subservient and poverty-stricken position.

On February 8, 1887, Congress passed the Dawes Act, named for its author, Senator Henry Dawes of Massachusetts. Also known as the General Allotment Act, the law allowed for the President to break up reservation land, which was held in common by the members of a tribe, into small allotments to be parceled out to individuals. Thus, Native Americans registering on a tribal "roll" were granted allotments of reservation land. “To each head of a family, one-quarter of a section; To each single person over eighteen years of age, one-eighth of a section ; To each orphan child under eighteen years of age, one-eighth of a section; and To each other single person under eighteen years now living, or who may be born prior to the date of the order of the President directing an allotment of the lands embraced in any reservation, one-sixteenth of a section…”

Section 8 of the act specified groups that were to be exempt from the law. It stated that "the provisions of this act shall not extend to the territory occupied by the Cherokees, Creeks, Choctaws, Chickasaws, Seminoles, and Osage, Miamies and Peorias, and Sacs and Foxes, in the Indian Territory, nor to any of the reservations of the Seneca Nation of New York Indians in the State of New York, nor to that strip of territory in the State of Nebraska adjoining the Sioux Nation on the south."

Subsequent events, however, extended the act's provisions to these groups as well. In 1893 President Grover Cleveland appointed the Dawes Commission to negotiate with the Cherokees, Creeks, Choctaws, Chickasaws, and Seminoles, who were known as the Five Civilized Tribes. As a result of these negotiations, several acts were passed that allotted a share of common property to members of the Five Civilized Tribes in exchange for abolishing their tribal governments and recognizing state and Federal laws. In order to receive the allotted land, members were to enroll with the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Once enrolled, the individual's name went on the "Dawes rolls." This process assisted the BIA and the Secretary of the Interior in determining the eligibility of individual members for land distribution.

The purpose of the Dawes Act and the subsequent acts that extended its initial provisions was purportedly to protect Indian property rights, particularly during the land rushes of the 1890s, but in many instances the results were vastly different. The land allotted to the Indians included desert or near-desert lands unsuitable for farming. In addition, the techniques of self-sufficient farming were much different from their tribal way of life. Many Indians did not want to take up agriculture, and those who did want to farm could not afford the tools, animals, seed, and other supplies necessary to get started. There were also problems with inheritance. Often young children inherited allotments that they could not farm because they had been sent away to boarding schools. Multiple heirs also caused a problem; when several people inherited an allotment, the size of the holdings became too small for efficient farming.

The Secretary of the Interior established the Land Buy-Back Program for Tribal Nations to implement the land consolidation aspects of the settlement. In consultation and cooperation with tribes, the Program seeks to reduce historic fractionation through this unique opportunity for you, your land, and your community.

Dawes Act (1887)

The Cobell Settlement Agreement provides for a $1.9 Billion Trust Land Consolidation Fund to be used over a ten-year period to purchase fractional interests.


As tracts (or “allotments”) of Navajo lands are passed down through generations, they gain more and more individual owners.

Currently, there are approximately 150 locations with fractionated tracts of land with approximately 243,000 unique owners. Many allotments now have hundreds and even thousands of individual owners. It is difficult for owners to agree on how to use the land and these allotments often lie in idle and cannot be used for any economic development.

When and how can i sell my land?

The Navajo Land Buy-Back Program (Navajo BBP) will work with landowners over the next several months to provide more information about the Program. In late 2015 or early 2016, you may receive an offer packet from the Land Buy-Back Program describing your land’s appraised value as well as instructions on how to sell your land.

How will I be paid for my land and how much?

You will receive fair market value for any land interests you decide to sell, based on your ownership interest in the allotment, plus a $75 base payment. Funds will be deposited into your Individual Indian Money (IIM) account.

Do I have to sell my land?

No. Participation in the Program is strictly voluntary.

What happens to my land, if I choose to sell?

By selling your interests through Navajo BBP, you may create opportunities to make Navajo land more productive for you and your community. Any land interests you sell will remain in trust, but ownership will be transferred to the Navajo Nation. Selling your land for tribal consolidation will allow your Chapter to develop previously unusable land for economic and tribal growth.

Your community could use the land to build homes, community centers, and businesses for community sustainability. Also, for each owner-interest sold, the Department of the Interior will contribute a percentage of the proceeds to the Indian Education Scholarship Funds for American Indian and Alaskan Native students to build up $60 million in scholarship funds.

What are my next steps?

  • Contact the Trust Beneficiary Call Center at 1(888) 678-6836 to register indicating you are interested in selling your interest; provide your current contact information. Ask any questions you may have.
  • Visit your local BIA or OST office to learn more about the interests you own.


Back To Top