There have been plenty of questions about the historic settlement in the Cobell v. Salazar case.
That long-running lawsuit, filed by Elouise Cobell, who is Blackfeet from Montana, resulted last winter in a $3.4 billion settlement for Indian people who collectively lost billions because the federal government mismanaged royalties from the use of their lands.
But Congress has yet to sign off on distribution of the money and in the meantime, questions have arisen about the settlement. Cobell and her attorneys have been traveling Indian Country to answer some of those questions. Yesterday, she was on the Flathead Indian Reservation in western Montana. Missoulian reporter Vince Devlin covered the story, here:
This is a political settlement,” Cobell said. “The federal government always said they didn’t owe us any money. This would not have happened without a president who wanted it done.”
The settlement, she said, is President Barack Obama making good on a campaign pledge.
The settlement does not involve lawsuits by tribal governments over similar issues, only individual tribal members, who would receive $1,000 for the century of alleged historical mismanagement of their accounts, and a minimum of another $500 that addresses mismanagement of assets and resources on their land.
As Devlin reports, an estimated $15 million is scheduled to go to Cobell and the lead plaintiffs to pay costs incurred during the 14 years of litigation. That has been pointedly criticized by Richard Monette, a law professor at the University of Wisconsin and former chairman of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians.
Yesterday, Cobell termed Monette “a clown” and said “he’s doing a disservice to Indians.” But at least one man seemed to disagree with Monette, calling the settlement “junk change.”