Obama Administration Agrees to Settle 13-Year-Old Indian Lawsuit for $3.4 Billion

Thursday, December 10, 2009
Elouise Cobell (photo: Montana & Minds, Montana State U.)

Ending one of the longest and most complicated lawsuits ever brought against the U.S. government, attorneys representing American Indians have won a $3.4 billion settlement from the Department of the Interior. The suit was brought because of allegations that the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) for decades had cheated tribal land owners out of money paid from leases for mining, livestock grazing, timber harvesting and drilling for oil and gas.

BIA manages more than 55 million acres of Indian trust land, which involves accounting for revenues collected from companies that extract resources or raise cattle on reservations. This year alone the agency collected nearly $300 million that was disbursed to about 384,000 individual Indian accounts.
Each member of the class action lawsuit is expected to receive about $1,000 from the settlement. The agreement won’t be finalized until Congress and the federal courts sign off on it.
The suit was originally filed in 1996 by Elouise Cobell, a member of the Blackfeet Nation in Montana, on behalf of 500,000 Native Americans.
-Noel Brinkerhoff
U.S. Will Settle Indian Lawsuit for $3.4 Billion (by Charlie Savage, New York Times)
Cobell v. Salazar (CobellSettlement.com)
Standimg Strong (by Anne Pettinger, Montana & Minds)
Bureau of Indian Affairs (See Controversies) (AllGov)


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