Master of Jurisprudence in Indian Law - University of Tulsa College of Law
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Cobell | Opinion
Dennis Gingold: The facts behind trust fund settlement


"Mr. William Martin suggests in his opinion published Jan. 26, 2010, on Indian Country Today’s Web site that the $3.4 billion Cobell settlement is unfair to 500,000 individual Indians. Unfortunately, Mr. Martin omits mention of the fact that the settlement is three times that which has been awarded in aggregate to Indian tribes and individual Indians in the history of the United States. And he omits mention of the fact that this multi-billion dollar settlement is the largest settlement involving the United States government in the history of our nation. Worse, he misconstrues material facts, ignores governing procedures, and makes no effort to discuss his concerns with Ms. Cobell or class counsel.

The facts are as follows: The Individual Indian Trust has been grossly mismanaged for more than 100 years and the United States is in breach of trust duties it owes to the Cobell class. Individual Indian Trust assets have fallen into ruin; funds have disappeared; trespassers have looted oil, gas, timber and coal. More than 40 million acres of Individual Indian Trust land have vanished. And, to complicate matters, notwithstanding the loss, destruction, and corruption of critical trust documents, courts have refused to apply fiduciary presumptions and inferences that ordinarily apply to trustees who have done what the government has done to the Cobell class.

Notwithstanding the abuse suffered by the Cobell class, until Ms. Cobell brought this action in equity, no one did anything to stop the abuse. The world, including Mr. Martin, turned its back on the class and allowed suffering to continue while elderly and infirm members of the class continued to die; while children continued to live in poverty.

The $3.4 billion settlement includes $60 million to endow a scholarship fund for children and help pay for quality post-secondary education, academic and vocational. That may be the most important legacy of the Cobell litigation; the opportunity to provide each Indian child a quality education."

Get the Story:
Dennis Gingold: Cobell settlement will provide legacy (Indian Country Today 1/29)

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

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