The late Elouise Cobell, a citizen of the Blackfeet Nation, was the lead plaintiff in the Indian trust fund lawsuit, which led to a $3.2 billion settlement with the federal government. Photo: U.S. Department of the Interior

Final deadline approaching to claim share of Cobell trust fund settlement

Almost all of the money from the $3.4 billion Cobell trust fund settlement has been distributed to Indian Country but some payments remain unclaimed.

Eligible beneficiaries have until November 27 to claim their shares, according to a court order. They haven't been paid so far because the Department of the Interior failed to keep track of them, an attorney told The Billings Gazette.

“We had roughly 25,000 individuals who were listed as alive in the data, who were in fact deceased,” attorney David Smith told the paper. “We found over 1,000 individuals who were listed as deceased in the Interior’s records and were actually alive.”

If the beneficiaries can't be located, their funds will be transferred to the Cobell scholarship fund. Checks that have been mailed but haven't been cashed by the deadline also will go to the fund.

The Garden City Group, the court-appointed administrator of the settlement, maintains a database of "whereabouts unknown" beneficiaries as well as those whose contact information is not current.

The November 27 deadline does not apply to situations where the estates of deceased beneficiaries are still being processed by Interior.

Read More on the Story:
Last chance for tribal members, heirs, to get money from BIA property mismanagement settlement (The Billings Gazette October 27, 2017)

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Court sets final deadline for remaining payments from Cobell settlement (June 22, 2017)