Editorial: A long overdue settlement to Cobell lawsuit
"It took nearly 14 years of litigation, three administrations and two contempt citations against Cabinet secretaries, but Native Americans are finally poised to receive some measure of restitution from the U.S. government for its gross mismanagement of Indian trusts.

Elouise Cobell filed a class-action suit in 1996 on behalf of herself and the hundreds of thousands of other Native Americans who own land kept in trust by the U.S. government. The government collected oil and gas royalties from private companies that leased the property and was supposed to disperse the funds to the individual Indians with an ownership stake. But billions of dollars appear to have been unaccounted for since the government began the program more than 120 years ago.

While the government's lapses in managing the accounts were disturbing, its stonewalling during the Bush administration and its apparent destruction of information and noncooperation during the Clinton years were infuriating, unnecessary and cruel and served only to compound already great injustices.

President Obama made good on his campaign promise to resolve the matter, and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, as well as a host of other Interior and Justice Department officials, negotiated in good faith. Last month, the administration announced a settlement worth $3.4 billion, with roughly $1.4 billion going to individuals and the remainder set aside for the government to buy plots of land that will be turned over to the pertinent Indian tribe. The deal also includes establishment of a $60 million scholarship fund for Native American children, and the government has agreed to set up a commission to study the trust program to ensure that such lapses do not happen again. Congress has until Feb. 28 to sign off on the agreement, which must also be approved by a D.C. federal judge before funds are dispersed."

Get the Story:
Editorial: Native Americans win $3.4 billion in lawsuit against U.S. (The Washington Post 1/5)

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

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