Cobell Lawsuit & Settlement

Jodi Rave: Milestone as judge approves $3.4B Cobell settlement





"In a crowded federal courtroom near the National Mall in Washington, D.C., on June 20, the first person to testify was Elouise Pepion Cobell, a member of Montana's Blackfeet Tribe.

Cobell, 65, exemplifies persistence. She grew up in a house without utilities and has worked as a banker and the treasurer of her tribe. Testifying on speakerphone from her home in Browning, Mont., where she was recovering from cancer treatment, she told U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan: "My great-grandfather was Mountain Chief, the last war chief of the Blackfeet Nation."

The dramatic hearing was the climax of an incredibly challenging class-action lawsuit, in which Cobell was the lead plaintiff representing an estimated half-million landowners -- members of more than 150 tribes. Over 15 years, the case had snowballed into more than 3,000 docket entries, several trials and appeals court rulings. Two Interior secretaries (Bruce Babbitt and Gale Norton) were charged with contempt, and other officials had admitted to destroying key records. A previous judge expressed so much anger against the government that some said he'd gone over the edge, and he was forced off the case. The Obama administration finally broke the stalemate by negotiating a settlement, approved by Congress in 2010. Cobell testified as Judge Hogan evaluated the settlement's "fairness.""

Get the Story:
Jodi Rave: Milestone in Cobell Indian trust case (High Country News 7/25)

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