Cobell responds to questions about trust fund settlement
Elouise Cobell, the lead plaintiff in the Indian trust fund lawsuit, will be answering questions about the proposed settlement to the case. Cobell is a member of the Blackfeet Nation in Montana.

This is the sixth letter in a series of open letters that I’m sending to Indian Country to answer questions you have asked me about settlement of the Cobell class action lawsuit. Prior Ask Elouise letters can be found on the settlement website:

We also have a “frequently asked questions” section to answer the most common questions we’ve received: I can’t answer every question, but I will try to answer as many as I can every week.

The most common question I receive every week relates to whether someone is included in this settlement. Unfortunately, I do not have that information. The settlement agreement provides general guidelines (see prior Ask Elouise letters), but I also understand many of you have unique or unusual circumstances which make it unclear whether you are included. For those of you who still have questions, I recommend that you register to receive all Court-ordered communications to ensure you do not miss important information. There is no need to register if you are receiving a quarterly IIM statement. The Court ultimately will determine who is included in this settlement. Registration information can be found at the end of this and every Ask Elouise letter.

Once I register, how long before I receive communications about this lawsuit?
It depends on when the settlement is approved by Congress. Right now, it is not clear that Congress will pass legislation authorizing the settlement. If Congress passes the legislation, we expect the Court to approve all communications to class members. Such communications would be sent to the addresses on file.

How can I help support the settlement?
If you are supportive of the settlement, I encourage all class members to write or call their representatives in Congress and urge them to pass legislation authorizing the settlement. We are at a critical juncture and further delay will likely terminate the settlement. Now is the time to act.

When are your next meetings in Indian Country?
Our litigation team will be traveling through parts of Montana, Idaho and Wyoming. If you are able to attend, our team would be happy to answer any questions you may have. Please note that some of these dates and times are tentative – check back frequently to make sure you have the correct information.

Wednesday, March 24
8:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.
Fort Peck Tribes, Montana
Silver Wolf Casino
Highway 25 East
Wolf Point, MT

Monday, March 29
9:00 a.m. – 12 p.m.
Nez Perce, Idaho
Clearwater River Resort Events Center
17500 Nez Perce Road
Lewiston, ID 83501

Tuesday, March 30
10:00 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Crow Indian Reservation, Montana
Apsaalooke Center
Located next to the Crow tribal rodeo ground grandstand "Edison Real Bird Complex" located next to I-90

Location/Time TBD - Northern Cheyenne, Montana

Wednesday, March 31
12:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Northern Arapaho, Wyoming
Location To Be Determined

4:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Eastern Shoshone, Wyoming Location To Be Determined

Thursday, April 1
2:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Shoshone-Bannock, Idaho The “Dome Room” – Tribal Complex
Check the settlement website for the most recent meeting schedule. It is not always possible to include the next meeting location in the Ask Elouise letters, so continue to check the website for the latest information on dates, times and locations.

I heard that Osage tribal members are not included in the settlement, is this true?
This is incorrect. Osage tribal members are included in the settlement to the extent that income was deposited into an Osage member’s IIM account, or to the extent that an Osage tribal member owns trust land. If an Osage tribal member’s headright income had never been deposited into an IIM account, he or she would not be included in this settlement unless he or she otherwise owned trust or restricted land. The Osage Tribe intervened in our litigation and asked the Court to exclude many of its members from the litigation. The Court accommodated the tribe. If an Osage tribal member had income deposited into an IIM account, they would participate like any other IIM accountholder in this settlement.

How can I participate in the Land Consolidation program?
The government has not yet developed the program. Participation and other details, including valuation of your lands and timing, have not yet been determined. The settlement agreement provides that this is a voluntary program and that you are to be offered fair market value for your land. If you don’t believe the offer is fair, don’t sell your land.

I own trust land, but I sold it before September 30, 2009 and I don’t have an IIM account, can I participate in this settlement?
No. The settlement agreement provides that if you never had an IIM account, then you must have owned your trust land on September 30, 2009 in order to participate. If you sold or gift deeded your land before September 30, 2009, you will not be eligible to participate in the settlement (unless you had an open IIM account). However, if you sold or gift deeded your land after September 30, 2009, you may still participate.

If you are not currently receiving an IIM statement from the government, please remember to register for correspondence over the Internet or by calling the number below.

Telephone: 1-800-961-6109

If you have a question, send an e-mail to:

Otherwise you can send me a letter to the address below. To expedite the processing of your letters our contractor has set up a post office box in Ohio, but I assure you this letter is coming from me and I will see your letters.

Ask Elouise
Cobell Settlement
PO Box 9577
Dublin, OH 43017-4877

Thank you and keep your questions coming!

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

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