American Indians reach trust settlement with federal government

The US Department of Justice (DoJ) and Department of the Interior (DoI) announced a $1.023 billion settlement with 41 American Indian tribes April 11. The announcement comes following a 22-month negotiation period after the tribes charged in a class action that the DoI and the Department of the Treasury mismanaged money held in a trust account from natural resources on tribal lands. The DoI holds nearly 56 million acres in trust for Native American tribes, and leases much of these lands for various uses including timber, mineral, oil and gas extraction. Attorney General Eric Holder stated that the settlement “fairly and honorably resolves 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.”

From Jurist, April 12. Used with permission.

NOTE: This is the second such settlement reached between Native Americans and the Obama administration. A $3.4 billion settlement reached last year in the 15-year lawsuit brought by Elouise Cobell of the Blackfeet Tribe in Montana, brought on behalf of thousands of individual Indians, remains under appeal. There remain some 60 unresolved cases between the federal government and Native American tribes. (MPR, April 12; AP, April 11; Native Sun News, Feb. 22)

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