Cobell Lawsuit & Settlement

S.E. Ruckman: Indian beneficiaries look for answers on Cobell

"To Eddie Jacobs, the Cobell case is personal. He is not just an Individual Indian Monies (IIM) account holder with a number, he said. His grandpa was one of many Creek landholders with land where oil was discovered in the early 1900s. Jacobs’ story is the tale of a grandfather who had his monies siphoned to help pay for a world war.

“He didn’t know about it then,” Jacobs said. “Will he ever get that money back?”

Jacobs was one of nearly 100 landowners, attorneys and tribal officials who attended a series of meetings across Oklahoma on March 14 at the Wichita Housing Authority Iscani Community as part of the notification provision of the case.

Cobell attorneys, Keith Harper, Rob Harmala and Alex Pearl, fielded questions from Indian landholders dealing with the upcoming settlement. Inquiries included attorney’s fees, landholder eligibility, payment dates and claims guidelines. Tempers flared but were easily put out during the 90-minute meeting.

“The deceased people, who are no longer with us, they gave up so much,” Jacobs said.

Attendees nodded, but they had concerns about safeguarding against future mismanagement with the same government agency. Harper, said blame lay with the Minerals Management System (MMS) and not just the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA).

“It’s an issue we struggled with,” Harper said. “We’ve brought those issues to light repeatedly.”

Comments tended from the practical to the emotional. Kiowa chairman, Ron Twohatchet, said he had fielded calls from tribal members IIM account holders with incarcerated relatives. What happens to their share, he asked. The answer: Any monies that come to those account holders will be deposited in their IIM, officials said."

Get the Story:
S.E. Ruckman: Looking for Answers (Indian Country Today 3/17)

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