The following is a press release from Elouise Cobell, a member of the Blackfeet Nation of
Montana who is the lead plaintiff in the Indian trust fund
Elouise Cobell, lead plaintiff in the 15-year-old class action lawsuit over the federal government's mismanagement of its Indian Trust, hailed today's House vote as a landmark milestone on the road to justice for Native People.
"This is truly an historic day in Indian Country as well as in America’s history” said Ms. Cobell, a member of the Blackfeet Nation. “By Congress placing a seal of approval on this settlement, a monumental step has been taken to remove a stain on our national honor, and create a better future for Indians as our government begins to make some amends for grave past injustices”, she said.
The House action completes the long delayed legislative phase of the settlement of Cobell, et al v. Salazar, et al and sends the bill to President Barack Obama for his anticipated signature.
Following that action, the case will return to court for a hearing before D.C. District Court Judge Thomas Hogan in accordance with federal court rules to confirm the fairness of the settlement, determine appropriate attorneys fees and to establish distribution of funds to the class members.
“This unprecedented Congressional action paves the way for a brighter and better relationship with government," Ms Cobell said. "There is still much to be done in trust reform and improving trustee performance by the Department of Interior, but this huge step makes those other steps possible.”
"While the money is not as much as we believe we are entitled to, there was no end in sight to this litigation and the settlement will be recognized by Native People as an acknowledgment by the federal government that it wronged them by its mismanagement of Indian money and Indian lands."
"I am saddened that this process, which I began with the filing of our lawsuit in 1996, has taken so long," she said. "Too many account holders, as I have often said, have died awaiting this settlement."
"I want to extend my thanks to Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland, Dale Kildee of Michigan, Majority Whip Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, House Resources Chairman Nick Rahall of West Virginia, Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma, Appropriations Chairman David Obey of Wisconsin, and Ways and Means Chairman Rep. Sander Levin of Michigan."