Editorial: Act quickly on Indian trust fund settlement
"It's hard to overstate the importance in Indian Country of news that the federal government intends to pay $3.4 billion to settle claims from more than 120 years of mismanaged Indian trust money.

If approved by Congress and OK'd by federal courts, the historically large and long-running lawsuit would result in payments to about 300,000 individual Native American Indians.

The lead plaintiff, Elouise Cobell of the Blackfeet Reservation, filed the class-action case 13 years ago, saying the Indian people were owed tens of billions of dollars in royalty and lease payments paid on lands held in trust by the federal government.

She has seen the case through thick and thin — as well as through several judges and contempt citations against successive secretaries of the Interior for bad faith in the case.

Terms of the settlement reached Monday night by plaintiffs and the Obama administration include payment of $1,000 to each member of the class action and additional amounts based on the amount of land owned.

That would take care of $1.4 billion. A portion of the remainder would go to the plaintiffs' lawyers in an amount to be set by a judge. The rest would go into a fund that would be used to buy out landowners whose stakes are so fractionalized through the generations that administering the trust payments would cost more than the payments are worth."

Get the Story:
Editorial: Indian trust checks aren't in mail yet, but they're in plans (The Great Falls Tribune 12/9)

Relevant Documents:
Agreement | Press Release | Q&A | Audio

Related Stories:
Twitter Recap of Cobell settlement with Photos (12/8)
Statement by President Obama on Cobell settlement (12/8)
Statement by Sen. Dorgan on Cobell settlement (12/8)
Statement by Sen. McCain on Cobell settlement (12/8)
Statement by Sen. Tester on Cobell settlement (12/8)
Statement by Rep. Rahall on Cobell settlement (12/8)
Statement by Rep. Cole and Rep. Kildee on Cobell settlement (12/8)
'Major' announcement on Indian trust management (12/8)