Cobell Lawsuit & Settlement | Opinion

Mark Ratledge: The burial of Elouise Cobell at Blackfeet Nation

"Elouise Cobell filed her class action suit in 1996 and originally thought it would take only three years to resolve the issues. She joined Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Attorney General Eric Holder in making the settlement announcement. Tami A. Heilemann-DOI

On Oct. 22, Elouise Cobell was buried on the Blacktail Ranch where she and her husband had lived. Blackfeet and Catholic prayers were said, and Hutterite girls sang hymns, and the Montana wind never stopped blowing. Some thought that Napi -- the "Old Man," the supernatural trickster, troublemaker and ultimate helper of the Blackfeet -- was present, too.

Elouise Pepion Cobell -- Inokesquetee saki or Yellowbird Woman -- was a member of the Blackfeet Nation, the great-granddaughter of Mountain Chief. She was a rancher and Blackfeet banker, a MacArthur Foundation fellow, and, most famously, the lead plaintiff in Cobell v. Salazar and The Department of the Interior. When she died Oct. 16 in a Great Falls, Mont., hospice, after a long bout with cancer, she was 65.

The Blacktail Ranch lies on the rolling prairie of the Blackfeet Reservation, within sight of the peaks of Glacier National Park. Every time Cobell drove to Browning to work as executive director of the Native American Community Development Corporation, she passed Starvation Ridge, where nearly one-quarter of the Blackfeet Nation died during the winter of 1883-'84 because the inept Bureau of Indian Affairs failed to provide treaty rations of grain and cattle."

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Mark Ratledge: The burial of Elouise Cobell (High Country News 11/23)