Master of Jurisprudence in Indian Law - University of Tulsa College of Law
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Cobell
Mostly praise for $3.4B settlement to Cobell lawsuit


Reaction from Indian Country to the $3.4 billion Cobell settlement has been mostly positive.

The deal provides $1.412 billion to the plaintiffs in the long-running suit. Each account holder -- a number estimated to be as high as 500,000 -- will receive a $1,000 check. Some will receive more money based on the activity that occurred on their land.

The settlement also provides $2 billion to pay account holders for their fractionated land interests. The money will be spent over a 10-year period and any land acquired through the program will be returned to tribal governments.

To provide an incentive for account holders to sell their interests, the settlement creates an Indian scholarship fund. Every time an interest is acquired, the Interior Department will deposit money in the fund for a total amount of $60 million.

"This is the first time I’ve seen someone take Native American issues and bring them to the forefront,” Roger Running Crane of the Blackfeet Nation council told KFBB-TV.

“I’m glad because the people have been waiting so long,” added Blackfeet elder Al Potts. "I didn't think I would live to the day when I'd see this but it's happened and I'm overjoyed," Verna St. Goddard, another Blackfeet elder, told The Great Falls Tribune.

"This has been a long journey for Cobell team and the DOI attorneys to negotiate this agreement," Navajo Nation Vice President Ben Shelly said in a statement to The Farmington Daily Times. "I just hope it's a fair amount for the individual Navajos affected by settlement and help(s) resolve the tribe's own lawsuit regarding mismanagement of funds."

But some don't believe the money is enough. Legislation that was proposed in 2006 but never moved forward put a settlement figure at $8 billion.

"I figured that would be life-changing for many people entitled to the money," Oglala Sioux Tribe council member Craig Dillon told The Sioux Falls Argus Leader. "But $1.4 billion is a drop in the bucket, and there are a lot of buckets."

The settlement requires Congressional and judicial approval. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar hopes Congress will take action by the end of the year. Action in federal court will take several months, he said.

Individual Indians who aren't happy with the settlement can opt out and continue to press their claims in court.

Get the Story:
Blackfeet Nation Reacts to $3 Billion Settlement (KFBB 12/8)
American Indians at MSU praise Cobell settlement (The Bozeman Daily Chronicle 12/8)
U.S. offers to pay Native Americans $1.4 billion for lost funds (CNN 12/8)
After A History Of Mistrust, $3.4B For Indians (NPR 12/8)
Indian trust fund lawsuit settlement proposed (Government Executive 12/8)
Tribal monies won’t cover every member (The Grand Forks Herald 12/8)
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US Settles Historic Native American Lawsuit (Voice of America 12/8)
Interior settles 13-year-old lawsuit over Indian trusts (The Federal Times 12/8)
Government Settles Indian Trust Fund Class-Action Suit (Main Justice 12/8)
Parties reach deal in Indian trust suit (The Great Falls Tribune 12/9)
With proposed deal, Cobell feels ‘very good’ (The Billings Gazette 12/9)
Some Navajo residents to benefit from royalty dispute settlement (The Farmington Daily Times 12/9)
U.S. agrees to pay $3.4B to settle tribal trust case (The Oklahoman 12/9)
Feds, Indians reach $3.4 billion settlement in royalty suit (The Arizona Republic 12/9)
U.S. to pay $3 billion to end dispute with tribes (The Palm Springs Desert Sun 12/9)
Feds settle suit over mismanagement of Indian trust land (The Denver Post 12/9)
Government agrees to settle billion-dollar Indian lawsuit (The Salt Lake Tribune 12/9)
Government to settle suit over Indian land trusts (The Washington Post 12/9)
U.S. Will Settle Indian Lawsuit for $3.4 Billion (The New York Times 12/9)
U.S. settles Indian trust account lawsuit (The Los Angeles Times 12/9)

Relevant Documents:
Agreement | Press Release | Q&A | Audio

Related Stories:
Twitter Recap of Cobell settlement with Photos (12/8)
Statement by President Obama on Cobell settlement (12/8)
Statement by Sen. Dorgan on Cobell settlement (12/8)
Statement by Sen. McCain on Cobell settlement (12/8)
Statement by Sen. Tester on Cobell settlement (12/8)
Statement by Rep. Rahall on Cobell settlement (12/8)
Statement by Rep. Cole and Rep. Kildee on Cobell settlement (12/8)
'Major' announcement on Indian trust management (12/8)