Sen. Baucus press release on Cobell and Crow water rights settlements
The following is a press release from Sen. Max Baucus (D-Montana).

Montana’s senior U.S. Senator Max Baucus joined Elouise Cobell, Chairman Cedric Black Eagle of the Crow Tribe and President Obama today for the signing of his legislation to finalize a settlement in the Cobell v. Salazar class action lawsuit. Baucus’ bill also included U.S. Senator Jon Tester’s bill to ratify the Crow water rights compact.

“This new law will finally provide closure for hundreds of thousands of folks in Indian Country who have waited too long for justice. I want to thank Elouise Cobell for her persistence, her courage and her tireless pursuit of justice,” Baucus said. “This settlement is fully paid for and will not add a dime to the deficit. It serves as a reminder that we have a responsibility to keep fighting for good paying-jobs and education in Indian Country.”

Montana Blackfeet Tribal member Elouise Cobell, who first brought the suit against the federal government, thanked Baucus for his work to resolve the settlement.

“Today marks the end of a sad chapter for Native Americans victimized by the federal government. Now we can finally begin the process of restoring funds to Indian people across the nation,” Cobell said. “I want to thank Senator Baucus for being a leader in the Senate during the fight to bring closure to this issue. This resolution would not have been possible without his efforts.”

In December 2009, the parties in the Cobell lawsuit agreed to settle the case, involving a decades-old lawsuit over the mismanagement of more than 300,000 American Indians’ trust accounts. But federal lawmakers had yet to fund the settlement. Baucus worked for months to secure the agreement to finalize the settlement, which is fully paid for and includes funding to resolve historical accounting and damage claims, establish a Trust Land Consolidation Fund and support Indian scholarships.

The legislation signed into law today also ratifies the Crow-Montana Water Rights Compact, which outlines the tribe’s authority over distributing, allocating and leasing water rights. It also provides funding for the development of water resources for irrigation, power, and other uses.

“The Crow Water Rights Settlement resolves decades-old claims against the government regarding the water rights of the Crow tribe. This law will provide important funding for water projects for irrigation and power – without adding a dime to the federal deficit. And these projects will create jobs and stimulate economic growth for the Tribe,” Baucus said. “I want to thank all the folks who came together to get this done, especially Chairman Black Eagle and my colleague, Senator Tester.”

Chairman Black Eagle thanked Baucus and Senator Jon Tester for their work to ratify the settlement in the Senate.

"I think it is an historic event for the Crow Tribe, an accomplishment that will directly benefit all 12,000 members of the tribe and the entire State of Montana," Chairman Black Eagle said. "This would not have been possible without the support, guidance and expertise of Senator Baucus, as well as that of Senator Tester. The Tribe owes them a debt of gratitude."