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$3.4B Class-Action Lawsuit Ends: 350,000 American Indians to Receive Payout

Elouise Cobell, Blackfeet American Indian tribe leader, shakes hands with President ObamaOne of the United States’ largest class-action lawsuits came to a close yesterday as American Indians and the federal government finalized a $3.4-billion settlement that would end a 17-year battle over squandered land trust royalties. Approximately 350,000 American Indian beneficiaries will receive a total of $1.5 billion, either $1,000 or $800 payouts, as soon as December via a mailed check.

Additionally, the government will use another $1.9 billion to purchase fractioned land allotments from current proprietors and return that land to the tribe. The deal also includes a government-funded scholarship for American Indian youth.

“These 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,” said Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. in a statement.

The lawsuit initially was filed in 1996 by Blackfeet tribe leader Elouise Cobell after she witnessed those who leased American Indian land gain wealth from selling its resources. There was no accounting of the royalties from this land that was held in trust for them by the government, actions that prolonged poverty in the American Indian community. Cobell died in 2011 from cancer.

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

Another 60 similar class-action lawsuits against the government have not yet been settled. American Indian tribes across the country, including the Osage tribe in Oklahoma, the Chippewa tribe in Minnesota and the Nez Perce tribe in Idaho, await resolution and payout.

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19 Comments

  • Some justice. Long overdue. Praise God!

  • I think a check for $800 or $1000 at today’s prices is equivalent to a handful of beads- a paltry sum for the hardship, and seems a less than adequate settlement.

  • Laura White

    A paltry sum indeed, especially after they take taxes out of it, the Feds w/probably consider it a CAPITOL GAIN, or something like that. They always find a way to get it back. The lying, thieving Bureau of Indian Affairs has screwed us out of Billions over the years and are probably still doing it. This is hush money, pure and simple. Thank you anyway, Ms. Cobell, may you rest in Peace my Sister.

    • Sorry, but if you did not know, Native peoples do not pay taxes.

      • black cloud

        Wow! Native Americans don’t pay taxes??? Could you please explain where the funds from my pay checks go & why I + every working Native American is required to file taxes every year???? We have to pay for fishing/hunting licenses even though we have federal treaty rights, but federal govt doesn’t enforce our rights at state level so there fore they dont exist. Can you please explain why Native Americans make up less than 10% of their own lands(entire continental US) & are the poorest ethnic race in America? Can you explain to all the uneducated people why the U.S. govt spends more money fighting the rights of Native Americans then it does enforcing them? Why do casinos in U.S. get taxed fairly, unlessss they are owned/operated by federally recognized tribe then they are raped & taxes are collected three times by feds & twice at state level before profits can be made??? I love diversity & my country, but what has happened & is happening to NATIVE AMERICANS goes far beyond sad. You can only pray that one day a world power over throws US & treats all Americans like garbage & then we would have equality !

      • Misinformed or intentional ignorance..My daughter is native american..she has had to take out student loans in order to finance portions of her college fees. Those student loans are then taxed as income. She owes money every year at tax time to the state and federal gov’t. However, she has to pay the money back with interest…makes no sense, not that she has to pay it back and with interest..but that it is TAXED as “income”. How is it you think native americans don’t pay taxes? Do you think there is a sign painted on their foreheads when they make a purchase saying “native american…exempt!”. Is there a box to check on your tax forms regarding exemption status saying check here if “Native American”? Hmmmmm….that’s a thought…maybe we/our CPA have been missing something all these years.

      • Jordan Desjarlais

        Natives do pay taxes do your research you think your smart

  • Choctaw Love

    Its about time. We filed our documents and supporting information. Why does this kinda thing happen? How do we prevent it from happening again? However we are looking forward to our share of this genocidal cash.
    In my eyes not enough but a great start on acknowledging the wrongs committed by genocide, from state folks and their accomplices.

  • Wondering Why

    Why would they lease their land?
    Did the lease include resources?

    When Alaskan land is leased to miners it’s uaually done with an agreed upon percentage of the resources collected.

    There’s still conflict between Indian Tribes and the United States?

    Let’s get these issues settled and move on..

    Eventually our sun will burn out.. We need to get off of this planet! Let’s put aside our differences of race, skin color, religion and work together for a better tomorrow. Our children are counting on us..

    • Wondering Why…Do you really think the Native Americans solicited the “lease” of their land..Naive…They had no choice..it was lease or lose..and informed disclosure of intent for the use of the land was not “disclosed” intentionally I am sure..Who ever said ignorance is bliss?
      The land leased to the miners in Alaska has a time frame, date the lease runs out…not in this case of the American Indians, it was a ruse used to make them think the land was being “borrowed, loaned, rented, leased” but it was actually “hand it over forever or else we are gonna take it” Basically “the fine print” that didn’t exist. Make believe that they had some control over what was being done as to not lose face. Do your research please.

  • I am sorry for the crap the American Indians had to put up with years ago when they were mistreated and made to live on reservations in order to maintain their heritage but, with that said, I have a hard time accepting those that claim mis-use of the land and resources when there are so many of today’s tribes that sell out….
    Case in point, a large number of our states today have legalized gambling where the tribes run BILLION dollar casinos on their lands under the guise that it will aid the local economy. The majority of the revenue from these casinos goes into opening other gambling establishments and “Pay Day Loan” stores. There are too many in my opinion and, I believe these kind of ventures on behalf of the tribes has hurt not only their reputation for “Love for the Land” but it has led to locals (and American Indians) having gambling addictions. This too has become a drain on our economy as these people become impoverished and then rely on welfare, food stamps and free medical care because they cannot afford it after wasting their monies at the casinos. Then there are the bleeding diehards who believe this is a Social concern and we MUST utilize tax dollars to provide free treatment for Gambling addiction.
    Excuse me if I seem to be carrying on but I just take issue with their claim of a drain on their resources when in turn I believe it is the other way around…..
    If you want my tax dollars to help the American Indians,
    Tear down the casinos (hey, that’s what we built Las Vegas for) and reclaim the lands they destroyed when they chose to build them in the first place.

    • Luke Visconti

      It’s their land and their nation(s) to do with what they wish. Our (oppressive) management of their affairs over the past 300 years can only be described as an atrocity. We are just beginning to accept self-sovereignty of Indians, and I think the tribes are being very generous (perhaps pragmatically so). In any other situation, our government would be facing war-crime trials in The Hague. Luke Visconti, CEO, DiversityInc

      • Mike I disagree with u strongly the Indians were here in America before the whiteman and this country which I love has done the native americans wrong bigtime, we owe native americans bigtime, and u fail to tell all what Indians have done for this country, im not indian and I am a whiteman but I support Indians and I don’t have a problem with my tax dollars helping Indians, this country ought to be ashamed how we have mistreated and done wrong the native americans, this country and the government owes Indians

    • They had no choice..it was lease or lose..and informed disclosure of intent for the use of the land was not “disclosed”

    • OK Mike, the Native Americans by your own admission didn’t invent Casino’s “(hey, that’s what we built Las Vegas for)” so stop trying to blame gambling addictions on the Native Americans and their Casino’s..You have no idea what they do with their profits..Admittedly, I can only speak for one tribe I am familiar with and..I’ve seen the business committee reports ..they do put the monies into other investments besides “wasting their monies at the casinos”, There are only a few Native American’s that actually gamble..most of them know “the odds” of winning are low. In addition, the natives I deal with as a health care provider pay for their care with tribal monies, not welfare. They also have healthcare clinics on their reservations for everyday health issues. I am embarrassed for you.Your entire “carrying on” is without merit.

  • Though the settlement can never replace what was lost,it can help restore some of the fantastic resources that Mother Earth gave. The worlds largest stand of Ponderosa Pine will take 1000yrs to regrow. Returning the salmon to lands that once produced 1\3 of salmonoids in our Pacific waters. That resource was lost to all native or not in 1922.I want to build the first salmon|steelhead hatchery on lands my family homesteaded. Maybe I”ll live long enough to see that, gonna be close. Our children will see that. The Ponderosa may never retun.

  • To mike. The priorities now, are restoring the grand resources, to us Natives in the west. we are only 6 generations from the homesteaders. Save whats left and restore what can be. Keep the money, give us back our lands. By that I mean the original reservation of 1.1 millions acres included a now National Park. Good faith negociations were spit on, pissed on and then shit on. Give us back, what was supposed to become public land, that somehow ended up in the hands Corperate America. We will take care our Mother. Send lots of money, we’ll buy it back. This Injun, as I was called, plans on doing just that.

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