Feds, tribes meet on land consolidation

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BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) -- U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar kicks off a series of meetings Friday between federal officials and Indian tribes over a $3.4 billion court settlement for the government's historic mismanagement of Indian trust accounts.

Friday's event in Billings is the first of six consultations with tribes planned over the next several months. The goal is to determine how to spend $1.9 billion from the settlement that is slated for tribal land consolidation.

The government intends to buy up fractionated Indian lands from willing owners and then turn those lands over to tribes. Often, hundreds of people, even thousands, share ownership of individual parcels of land on reservations.

Additional consultations are planned in coming months in Minneapolis, Seattle, Albuquerque, Phoenix and Oklahoma City.