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Cobell | Opinion
Column: Years of hard work end with settlement in Cobell lawsuit


"Sometimes we recognize the heroes among us; sometimes heroic lives are only noticed by history. Elouise Cobell will get both.

Cobell is a member of the Blackfeet Tribe and was the lead plaintiff in the landmark class-action lawsuit representing more than 300,000 American Indians seeking payment from the government for more than 100 years of Indian land trust claims.

It was money the government collected from leases and mineral royalties on Indian-owned land but never paid the owners. Cobell filed the suit in 1996, negotiated a settlement of $3.4 billion last year, then had to wait until Congress approved the payment last week.

Cobell had no idea it would take 14 years to achieve justice.

"I thought this was just a simple case where the government hadn't done any accounting for individual Indians for a hundred-plus years," Cobell said, "and all we had to do was prove that, and we would move on, and everybody would do the right thing. Well, that's not what happened."

Cobell got pro bono legal help for the case but it was still expensive, especially as the years dragged on. She had to raise money to pay for accountants, expert witnesses and travel - all the while juggling her job as a banker and head of the Native American Community Development Corp. based in Browning

"You go to sleep thinking about it," she said. "You wake up in the morning thinking about it, and there's no rest. There's absolutely no rest."'

Get the Story:
Sally Mauk: Indian trust settlement ends years of hard work by Elouise Cobell (The MIssoulian 12/5)

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

Relevant Documents:
Elouise Cobell | President Obama | DOJ/DOI/USDA | Roll Call
NCAI | Sen. Dorgan | Sen. Baucus | Rep. Cole | Rep. Pallone

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