Elouise 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.

Dear Indian Country

This is the twelfth letter in a series of open letters that I’m sending to Indian Country. The purpose of this letter is to update you about the settlement and to answer your most relevant questions.

As I reported in the last letter, the House of Representatives voted to pass the “American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act of 2010” (“the Tax Extenders Bill”) before the Memorial Day holiday which included a provision authorizing the Cobell settlement. Unfortunately, on June 30, 2010, I learned our settlement would not be considered in a new version of the Senate Tax Extenders Bill. The new version failed to pass and the Senate could possibly consider it again in July. There is still a chance that we may be re-attached to that Bill, but the future of the Tax Extenders Bill is uncertain.

Following the failure of the Senate to pass the Tax Extenders Bill, our allies in the House of Representatives rallied to include our settlement on the war supplemental bill funding the Iraq and Afghanistan wars then being considered. This bill was passed by the House on the evening of July 1, 2010. The Senate did not consider the bill and is now on recess until Monday, July 12, 2010. We are urging our allies in the Senate to pass the war supplemental with the Cobell settlement.

The parties agreed to extend the settlement until July 9, 2010, so yet another extension is required if we are to give the Senate a chance to pass legislation. I will consult our attorneys and allies on the Hill about that extension over the next few days.

In your last letter, you mentioned that Senator Barrasso (R – WY), Vice-Chairman, Senator Committee on Indian Affairs introduced an amendment that he says would “improve” the settlement agreement even though it would terminate the settlement, what is the status of his amendment?
Thanks to your overwhelming support, Senator Barrasso was unable to bring his amendment to the floor for a vote. Your letters and calls to members of Congress had a significant impact on the outcome. Unfortunately, Senator Barrasso still doesn’t understand, or doesn’t care, that Indian Country overwhelmingly supports this settlement. According to statements reported in the press, he is more determined than ever to rob you of your victory in this case and it is likely that he again will attempt to introduce an amendment to terminate the settlement at some time in the future. We remain on guard against his efforts to further harm individual Indians.

You also mentioned that the National Congress of American Indians was considering a resolution supporting the Barrasso amendment, what is the status of that resolution?
I attended the NCAI event in Rapid City, South Dakota beginning June 20, 2010. A small, rabid group of tribal representatives sought to support Senator Barrasso’s amendment and, thereby, kill your settlement, but their effort was defeated soundly and NCAI passed a resolution urging Congress to reject the Barrasso amendment and pass authorizing legislation as soon as possible. It is important to remember that this class is made up solely of individual Indians trust beneficiaries; tribes have their own litigation (and, at times, the agenda of a few tribal leaders is inconsistent with individual Indians’ interests), but they don’t represent your interests in this litigation.

Will any Interior contractors with experience on Indian issues be selected to assist with the distribution of settlement proceeds or to hold the funds pending distribution?
Absolutely not. This is a conflict of interest. To allow the same contractors, who have been peddling their services that fail to deliver promised benefits to Indian Country, to have any role in the distribution of settlement funds would be insane. For the first time in history, your funds will be held securely, managed prudently, and distributed competently by able and experienced professionals. I know of no Interior contractors that meet the highest fiduciary standards that you are owed.

Where can I review the amount of time the attorneys have spent on the litigation?
Pursuant to an agreement between the parties, statements regarding counsels’ billing rates and related records supporting daily time, expense and cost records will be filed with the Court and available to the public. This documentation will be filed no later than 30 days following preliminary approval of the settlement agreement by the Court. Preliminary approval by the Court cannot occur unless and until Congress authorizes the settlement.

Prior Ask Elouise letters can be found on the settlement website: http://cobellsettlement.com/class/ask_elouise.php.

We also have a "frequently asked questions" section to answer the most common questions we've received: http://cobellsettlement.com/press/faq.php.

With so many members of the class, I can’t answer every question that you send. The Ask Elouise letters will answer as many questions as possible that are relevant to the entire class.

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 also http://cobellsettlement.com/press/faq.php), but I also understand that many of you have unique or unusual circumstances, which make it unclear to me whether you are included in the settlement class. 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.

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.

Internet: https://cert.tgcginc.com/iim/register.php
Telephone: 1-800-961-6109

If you have a question, send an e-mail to: askelouise@cobellsettlement.com. 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!

Cobell Settlement Documents:
Agreement | Press Release | Q&A | Audio

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