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Cobell
Audio: House Resources hearing on Cobell settlement


The House Natural Resources Committee held a hearing this morning to examine the $3.4 billion Cobell trust fund settlement.

The hearing lasted about 2 hours and 30 minutes. The committee heard from tribal leaders, a law professor, the Obama administration, lead plaintiff Elouise Cobell and one plaintiffs' lawyer.

Michael Finley, the president of the Intertribal Monitoring Association on Indian Trust Funds, said people in Indian Country have a lot of questions about the settlement. As a tribal leader, he said he doesn't have enough information to respond.

The Indian Land Working Group fully supports the settlement, said chairman Austin Nunez. Despite misgivings about the dollar amount and the land consolidation portion, he said the deal is in the best interests of account holders.

Richard Monette, a professor at University of Wisconsin Law School, raised a number of questions about the settlement. He accused the Cobell plaintiffs, the Obama administration and the federal judge handling the case of collusion and of violating federal court procedures.

David Hayes, the deputy secretary at the Department of the Interior, said the administration will do more outreach to Indian Country to inform account holders of the settlement. He said tribes will be consulted about the land consolidation portion.

Solicitor Hilary Tompkins clarified that the settlement resolves "past" accounting and "past" land mismanagement claims. Future claims are not extinguished, terminated or affected in any way by the deal, she said.

Tom Perrelli, the associate attorney general at the Department of Justice, said the $1.4 billion figure was developed by looking at different valuations of the case. He noted that the judge put a $455.6 million figure on the historical accounting portion.

Cobell said she has been meeting with Indian landowners and responding to questions about the settlement. So far, she said she hasn't run into major opposition but said there's a lot of misinformation about the case.

Audio files of the hearing, along with links to written testimony, follow:
Opening Statements

Panel 1 - Testimony | Q&A
The Honorable Michael Finley
President, Intertribal Monitoring Association on Indian Trust Funds

The Honorable Austin Nunez
Chairman, Indian Land Working Group

Richard Monette
Professor, University of Wisconsin Law School

Panel 2 - Testimony | Q&A
The Honorable David Hayes
Deputy Secretary, Department of the Interior
accompanied by the Honorable Hilary Tompkins
Solicitor, Department of the Interior

The Honorable Thomas J. Perrelli
Associate Attorney General, Department of Justice

Panel 3 - Testimony | Q&A
Ms. Elouise Cobell

Committee Hearing:
Full Committee Oversight Hearing On The Proposed Settlement Of The Cobell V. Salazar Litigation (March 10, 2010)

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

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