First checks from Cobell lawsuit settlement to be mailed soon

2012-11-26T19:30:00Z 2014-10-19T08:07:11Z First checks from Cobell lawsuit settlement to be mailed soonThe Associated Press The Associated Press
November 26, 2012 7:30 pm  • 

HELENA – After nearly 17 years of courtroom arguments, congressional negotiations and Indian Country bickering, hundreds of thousands of Native Americans could see the first payments of a $3.4 billion U.S. government settlement by the end of the year, plaintiffs’ attorneys said Monday.

The settlement between American Indians across the nation and the government over more than a century’s worth of squandered and mismanaged land trust royalties became final on Friday, when the appeal period expired.

One of the largest U.S. government settlements in history began with a lawsuit filed in 1996 by Elouise Cobell of Browning. The Blackfeet leader observed that those who leased Indian land made money from its natural resources, while the Indians themselves remained in poverty with no accounting of the royalties from that land that were held in trust for them by the government.

Cobell herself led the fight against the government for more than 15 years before she died of cancer last year.

“We all are happy that this settlement can finally be implemented,” lead attorney Dennis Gingold said in a statement Monday. “We deeply regret that Ms. Cobell did not live to see this day.”

Approximately 350,000 beneficiaries could start receiving $1,000 checks by Christmas as the first part of the settlement goes forward, plaintiffs’ attorneys said.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar released a statement that said the settlement marks a step forward in reconciliation and a new era in how the government administers its trusts.

“With the settlement now final, we can put years of discord behind us and start a new chapter in our nation-to-nation relationship,” Salazar said.

The agreement will pay out $1.5 billion to two classes of beneficiaries. Each member of the first class would be paid $1,000. Each member of the second class would be paid $800 plus a share of the balance of the settlement funds as calculated by a formula based on the activity in their trust accounts.

Another $1.9 billion would be used by the government to purchase fractionated land allotments from willing individuals and turn those consolidated allotments over to the tribe. An education scholarship for young Indians also would be established under the agreement.

Congress approved the deal in December 2010 and U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan approved it after a June 2011 hearing. Hogan said that while the settlement may not be as much as some wished, the deal ended the legal deadlock and provided some certainty for the beneficiaries.

Cobell traveled across Indian Country to explain the deal, but there was opposition. One opponent, Kimberly Craven of Boulder, Colo., took her objections to the Supreme Court, saying the settlement did not include an actual accounting for how much money the government lost and that the deal would overcompensate a select few beneficiaries.

The Supreme Court declined to take up her petition.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(16) Comments

  1. Dubs
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    Dubs - January 28, 2014 11:28 am
    Sorry for being so late with a response--just saw your's. What I meant by "real citizen" was a free man (or woman) and not a ward of the government. A person that is a leader, a role model for future generations, an entrepreneur, someone that has to stand on their own and not run and hide under the skirt of the government when something happens. I respect Indian people and know many that are very good friends. We are ALL Americans and should all work toward the betterment of all people. Tribal people can be successful, they just need to be free to use their talents as they wish and not how a government grant dictates they lives. Once again, Sorry for the late response.
  2. unioncreek
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    unioncreek - December 18, 2012 1:40 pm

    And where did your people get the land, they took it from other tribe they went to war with. Quit crying and deal with it.
  3. unioncreek
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    unioncreek - December 18, 2012 1:37 pm
    AH, the economy will improve temporarily while they buy up as much booze and cars as they can until it's all gone. And then they'll come looking for more.
  4. random_rez_kid
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    random_rez_kid - November 29, 2012 5:16 am
    Dub, you still have not answered a previous question of mine. How is it that tribal members on reservations aren't real citizens? Tribal members are every bit of American as you are.
  5. madtaxpayer
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    madtaxpayer - November 28, 2012 1:49 pm
    Hey, I was born here just like you!!! it is my land as much as yours!!! everything in this world is fought for. your tribes fought amongst eachother! Your tribes even had slaves. do you tell that to your kids?? why is it ok for you to fight your own kind, but no one else is allowed to fight your kind? once again, unfair
  6. madtaxpayer
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    madtaxpayer - November 28, 2012 1:42 pm
    people who were born and raised in Europe, who had nothing to do with fighting with your ancestors have immigrated here to America, do you think they owe you too? because I guarantee the indians are receiving government funds from the taxes of legal immigrants.

    now, tell me, is that fair?
  7. Dub
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    Dub - November 28, 2012 10:54 am
    No, I don't think the Cobell Settlement was unfair. I knew Eloise very well, stayed at her parents place on Blacktail Creek years ago and enjoyed her father (Polite) a lot, and had a few beers with her brother Ernie. I admire her actions and honor her memory---but---when will the reparations end? There is not one person living now (non tribal) that scammed any Indian. The days of people being held on reservations are over, they need to disburse the land into private ownership and dissolve the tribal governments on all of them. They deserve to become real citizens and shown the respect they deserve. Look at any reservation in Montana and you really have to search to find a successful ranch, farm or home that was built with pride and a sense of true ownership. Eloise was ahead of her time but dumping a sack of cash into the hands of people that don't know what to do with it is not progress.
  8. onetwopunch
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    onetwopunch - November 28, 2012 9:59 am
    Wow I paid my taxes just like any of you also, I am Native American, our lands along the Red River were given to white settlers and we were forced to move or have our families murdered by the US soldiers. I was born in Montana and I am the son of a WW2 veteran, I work hard, help other no matter what they claim to be and pay for my own education. Its time non Native people start looking at the facts and stop listening to idiots who think they know anything about Indian country.America committed Genocide against our people and these lawsuits are not going to stop. You cannot expect to treat us any different than you when it comes to your rights as citezens of this country. And this is our HOMELAND.. so merry x mas to all my people, GOD BLESS Elouise Cobell a true Warrior!
  9. SP2012
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    SP2012 - November 28, 2012 9:31 am
    madtaxpayer: We are hard working just as any other.. we pay taxes just like you do. To let treaties be dead, is like letting the US constitution be dead.. You can thank your ancestors for things happening today.
    formerliberal: WE (Tribal Members) also pay those taxes. I don't have hatred and ignorance. Its a plain and simple phrase. Of course we all want whats fair.. but tell me whats not fair about it.. was the Hellgate Treaty fair? HELL NO! Has the US Gov. lived up to it? HELL NO.
    BTW. Water Rights Meeting Today!! or in your words the "dog and pony show".. ignorant.
  10. the 1 u luv2hate
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    the 1 u luv2hate - November 28, 2012 9:17 am
    Yeah it is the 21st Century, we do need to do away with mad tax payers. I have a consulting firm where you can learn about other parts of the globe where your kind will be happiest. We help in doing paper work and find the most viable options on how to immigrate (which is in your nature) to anywhere. The thing is the once healthy and renewable resources are nearing exhaustion and are compromised. And the policy makers are well aware of this. This is why your shovel ready jobs are not being allowed until the NEPA goes through... but your nature does not allow you to get that, just like your sense of entitlement makes you believe that you and your kind are the only ones who pays taxes.
  11. madtaxpayer
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    madtaxpayer - November 28, 2012 7:53 am
    guess we'll have our taxes raised to support that settlement. we need to do away with reservations. it's the 21st century for crying out loud! we were not alive when these treaties took place, I for one am tired of paying for something I had NOTHING to do with! our ancestors are dead. let the treaties be dead.
  12. madtaxpayer
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    madtaxpayer - November 28, 2012 7:51 am
    Are they taxed for this money? Because the rest of us are taxed for any tiny bit of income we receive from the government, owed or not! That is tax dollars they are receiving! Not just some special money hidden in obama’s pocket! Must be nice to be paid back for the government’s mistakes, the rest of us are NEVER paid back for their mistakes.

    Must be nice to be Indian. All those privileges. Must be nice.
  13. fomerliberal
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    fomerliberal - November 27, 2012 6:38 pm
    sp2012.....Yes the money would come from the taxpayers (US and State Government gets their money from those of us WHO DO pay taxes) where do you think it comes from - the tooth fairy??? I have been to 3 of the dog and pony show water compact meetings. I am well informed so my numbers are from what I have heard from the circus ring leaders holding the meetings. Read the Hellgate Treaty. It says nothing about water rights or water ownership, only about the right to fish in the streams. You say if you don't like it leave... that's shows your ignorance and hatred. I only want what is a fair settlerment for the water rights. I don't want us paying $1.4 billion on top of it.
  14. SP2012
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    SP2012 - November 27, 2012 4:27 pm
    formerliberal: US taxpayers? really? Not sure who you get your information and numbers from but, may i suggest you attend the next water rights meeting and get informed and educated so you can comment with facts. A history lesson would do some good as well, then you might understand a little more of the whats and whys. If you don't like whats happening, you don't have to, leave. Simple as that. Why in the world would anyone think that after all that has been done here, that the Tribal People, the original people of this area, would just be sitting ducks and continue to let things happen without stepping in and saying enough is enough. Enough is enough and we are fighting for and will continue fighting for whats rightfully ours.
    Dub: "we would be even." Who would be even? Sure does deserve to be watched.. hope you do so. What do you believe the Cobell Settlement is unjust? Wow!!

  15. Dub
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    Dub - November 27, 2012 3:08 pm
    This really deserves to be watched. And all this time I thought when they got the Cobell money, we would be even.
  16. fomerliberal
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    fomerliberal - November 27, 2012 9:25 am
    You think this settlement is large, wait til you see the one the CSKT tribe in Lake county is going to get. If the water agreement goes through, not only will they be the water czars for all of western MT, they will also get a settlement from the US taxpayers in the amount of $850 million to $1.4 billion (estimate from someone involved with the negotiations) . So not only will they get water control, they will also get this huge settlement for a tribe of only 7200. I actually had one tribal member they are asking for $2.9 billion and shooting for the $1.4 billion as a compromise. This would be the deal of the century-- CONTROL of water in western MT and $200,000 per tribal member. And they won't even tell us what the money is for - restitution??? What about restitution to the farmers and ranchers who will be forced out of business????
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