Fredericks Peebles & Morgan LLP   712.224.5420

Cobell | Opinion
Editorial: Small slices of justice for Native American landowners

"African Americans and Native Americans, the most persecuted and exploited groups in this nation's history, are on the verge of securing a small slice of justice.

Last week, the Senate approved a settlement that would provide $1.15 billion to compensate black farmers who were denied U.S. government loans and assistance because of their race. Lawmakers also approved a $3.4 billion payout to thousands of Native American landowners who, with their forebears, have been cheated out of oil and gas royalties since the late 19th century. The House, which passed earlier versions of the deals, should enthusiastically and quickly embrace these final settlements.

A federal judge must approve the settlements and determine that they are fair before any of the plaintiffs receives a penny. This process is likely to take at least six months, but it is a blink of an eye compared with the decades some plaintiffs have already waited.

In 1999, the government settled a class action brought by black farmers only to find that bureaucratic foul-ups left tens of thousands of farmers out of the money. Congress passed a well-intentioned fix in 2008, but it was flawed also; that made necessary the $1.25 billion settlement this year between the farmers and the Obama administration. The Senate amended the deal to require lawyers for the black farmers to oversee what is likely to be a lengthy and intricate distribution process, and it reduced the amount to be paid to $1.15 billion.

Late last year, Native Americans entered into a $3.4 billion settlement agreement with the administration after an unusually contentious and complex 14-year court battle. The Senate also tinkered with the terms of this settlement, which now includes $1.5 billion for payments to individuals and roughly $1.9 billion for the government to buy heavily subdivided plots owned by individuals that will be turned over to the pertinent Indian tribes."

Get the Story:
Editorial: A small slice of justice for minority farmers (The Washington Post 11/29)

Cobell Settlement Documents:
Agreement | Press Release | Q&A | Audio

Related Stories:
Elouise Cobell provides update about action on trust fund lawsuit (11/23)
Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe chairman opposes Cobell settlement (11/23)
NPR: NCAI president discusses settlement of Indian trust lawsuit (11/23)
Editorial: Overdue justice for Indian landowners with settlement (11/23)
Senate finally approves $3.4B settlement for Indian trust lawsuit (11/22)
Congress heads back to DC with Cobell settlement still in limbo (11/15)
Sen. Tester worried about finding money to pay Cobell settlement (11/05)
Justice Department honors attorneys who work on Cobell case (10/27)
Cobell calls $3.5B settlement 'best we're going to get' in case (10/18)
Judge hopes for 'one last chance' for Congress to support Cobell (10/15)
Opinion: Time to pass Cobell and African-American settlements (10/08)
Elouise Cobell provides update about state of trust settlement (10/4)
Cobell worried about ties to African-American farmers lawsuit (10/4)
Cobell settlement changed to give more money to beneficiaries (10/1)
Elouise Cobell statement on lack of Senate vote for settlement (9/30)
Republican opposition kills vote on Cobell settlement in Senate (9/30)
Cobell probably not included in stopgap appropriations measure (9/28)
Cobell not included in bill for African-American farmer settlement (9/27)
Editorial: Time running out for Senate to act on Cobell settlement (9/24)
Marty Two Bulls: Something stinky about Cobell trust settlement (9/24)
John Boyd: Cobell lawsuit delaying African-American settlement (9/23)
African-American farmers don't want settlement linked to Cobell (9/22)
Shakopee Tribe awards $50K grant for Cobell case documentary (9/20)
White House asks Congress to fund $3.4B Cobell trust settlement (9/16)
Elouise Cobell: Sen. Barrasso needs to work for trust settlement (9/13)
Obama calls trust fund settlement 'priority' at press conference (9/13)