The historic Keepseagle settlement was granted final approval by a judge in Washington, D.C., this week.
The suit, brought against the USDA by George and Marilyn Keepseagle 11 years ago, held that Native farmers seeking loans through the federal department had long faced discrimination on many fronts. It was settled for a record $760 million dollars; $680 million will be paid in damages $80 million will be used to forgive outstanding farm loan debt, according to the ICTMN.
According to lawyers for the plaintiffs, the settlement’s $760 million in monetary relief represents about 98 percent of what the plaintiffs could possibly have won at trial.
Of note, all funds for the settlement will be paid from the federal Judgment Fund, which is controlled by the U.S. Department of Justice, and will not have to be approved by Congress. In contrast, last year’s infamous Cobell settlement was set up in such a way that required congressional approval—thus causing multiple delays.
Native American farmers and ranchers now have until Dec. 24, 2011 to file claims for damages and debt relief.