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Cobell | Opinion
Editorial: Act quickly to approve Cobell settlement

"The announcement that the federal government has agreed to settle one of the largest and most complex class-action lawsuits this nation has ever faced is welcome news not only for American Indians but for all Americans. The settlement will finally bring an end to years of arguing over federal mismanagement of tribal trust lands.

Last week, the U.S. government agreed to pay $3.4 billion to resolve a 13-year-old lawsuit affecting hundreds of thousands of land trust accounts, some dating back to the 19th century. It's a far cry from the $47 billion in lost royalties and compounded interest that plaintiffs had sought after the class-action lawsuit was brought in 1996 on behalf of 300,000 people, including Tulalip tribal members in Washington. Members of the Yakama Nation were reportedly not involved in the lawsuit.

At one point in 2005, plaintiffs believed they were nearing a $27.5 billion settlement, but those talks faltered. Last year, a federal judge ruled the Indians were entitled to only $455 million.

The case dates back to 1887, when Congress divided tribal lands into small allotments -- ranging from 40 to 160 acres -- and then assigned them to individual Indians. The Department of Interior was given the task of managing the grazing, timber, and oil and gas rights for about 56 million acres of Indian trust land. Money accrued through the leases was then distributed to tribal members. In fiscal 2009, more than 384,000 Indian accounts received $298 million."

Get the Story:
Editorial: Let's wrap up Indian land lawsuit quickly (The Yakima Herald-Republic 12/15)

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

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