Justice Dept. Agrees to Pay Native Tribes $1 Billion for Mismanaged Funds
Saturday, April 14, 2012
The Obama administration has reached a settlement with more than 40 Indian tribes to resolve claims of mismanaged funds by the Department of the Interior.
After 22 months of negotiation, the U.S. Department of Justice agreed with tribal representatives for the government to pay more than $1 billion to 41 tribes.
Attorney General Eric Holder said the settlements “fairly and honorably resolve historical grievances over the accounting and management of tribal trust funds, trust lands and other non-monetary trust resources that, for far too long, have been a source of conflict between Indian tribes and the United States.” The settlement does not have to be approved by Congress because it comes out of the Treasury Department’s Judgment Fund.
The Interior Department became involved through its management of about 56 million acres of trust lands for federally-recognized tribes as well as 100,000 leases on these lands for uses ranging from timber harvesting to farming to oil and gas extraction.
Some of the outstanding claims against the government dated back more than 100 years. The Justice Department declined to say how much money would go to each tribe, although the amounts for 35 of the tribes are on record with the D.C. District Court. They range from $150 million to the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of Montana to $25,000 to the small Nooksack Tribe of northwest Washington.
The settlement comes on the heels of several other financial agreements between the Obama administration and American Indians, most notably the $3.4 billion Cobell settlement, which was approved by a federal judge in June 2011, but is still locked in the federal appeals court system. That settlement was the largest ever against the U.S. government and dealt with the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ failure to pay out money from leases for mining, livestock grazing, timber harvesting and drilling for oil and gas.
-David Wallechinsky, Noel Brinkerhoff
To Learn More:
Attorney General Holder and Secretary Salazar Announce $1 Billion Settlement of Tribal Trust Accounting and Management Lawsuits Filed by More Than 40 Tribes (U.S. Department of Justice)
Obama Moves to Settle 41 Tribal Trust Cases for $1 Billion (by Rob Capriccioso, Indian Country Today Media Network)
Tribes, Government Agree to $1 Billion Settlement (by Shannon Dinniny, Associated Press)
Judge Approves Largest Settlement Ever against U.S. Government…$3.4 Billion (by Noel Brinkerhoff and David Wallechinsky, AllGov)
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