NCAI pushes for settlement in USDA discrimination suit
The National Congress of American Indians is pushing the Obama administration to settle the Keepseagle case over discrimination at the Department of Agriculture.

NCAI President Jefferson Keel, a member of the Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma, said Indian farmers and ranchers who were denied loans and services deserve the same compensation as their African-American counterparts. He cited $1 billion in payments to African0American farmers under a settlement negotiated during the Clinton administration, plus an additional $1.25 billion approved by Obama last month.

“As victims of the same discrimination that is being remedied by settlements in the Pigford cases, Native American farmers and ranchers deserve to have their claims resolved and be provided comparable relief,” Keel said in letters to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Attorney General Eric Holder.

The Pigford case for African-American farmers was filed in 1981. The Keepseagle case for Indian farmers was filed in 1999.

According to NCAI, Indian farmers received only half of the loans they were due since 1981, causing more than $1 billion in economic damages and at least as much in non-economic harm.

Keel also sent letters to Rep. Dale Kildee (D-Michigan) and Rep. Tom Cole (R-Oklahoma), the co-chairs of the Congressional Native American Caucus. He asked them to keep Indian farmers in mind as they consider the new round of payments for African-Americans.

“We hope you will remind the Administration that, as this nation’s first farmers, Native Americans deserve the same measure of justice that has been accorded to African American farmers," Keel said.

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