Posts Tagged ‘cobell settlement’

As court wrangling continues to hold up actual payouts from the historic Cobell settlement, the federal government last week moved forward with talks about how it will part of the money to buy up fractured pieces of land and give it to tribes.

Here’s the full story from Associated Press reporter Matt Volz:

    HELENA – Federal officials Thursday released their proposal on how they plan to spend up to $1.9 billion to buy up Native American-owned fractionated lands and turn them over to tribes.

    The program is a major part of the $3.4 billion settlement of a class-action lawsuit brought by the late Elouise Cobell of Browning over Indian land royalties mismanaged by the government for more than a century.

    The program aims to reduce the number of fractionated lands within 10 years by prioritizing tracts with the most individual owners, finding landowners willing to sell and targeting land that can be bought with little preparatory work and where controlling interest can be gained quickly. The program is voluntary for people willing to sell their individual allotments.

    Land fractionation was caused by the 1887 Dawes Act, which split tribal lands into individual allotments often inherited by multiple heirs with each passing generation. In some places, individual allotments now have dozens to more than 1,000 individual owners.
    The Interior Department has identified 88,638 fractionated land tracts owned by nearly 2.8 million people.

    John Dossett, the general counsel for the Native Congress of American Indians, said the draft proposal appears to address most of the tribes’ major concerns. Of particular importance was that the tribes be involved in implementing and administering the land consolidation program through cooperative agreements, which are addressed in the draft plan.

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Cobell settlement gets final approval

   Posted by: buffalo_post    in Cobell vs. Salazar, Elouise Cobell

Elouise Cobell (Associated Press)

It was another triumphant day in court for those whose lives have been wrapped up in the Cobell vs. Salazar case for more than 15 years, as a district judge gave final approval to the settlement Monday.

Although the case’s champion, couldn’t be there because she continues a fight against cancer, Elouise Cobell called the judge during the hearing to express her sentiment that the settlement will bring hope to Indian Country.

Barring an appeal, the ruling gives the Interior Department the lease to begin making payments to entitled parties.

The AP covered the story, and here’s the rundown of the Indian trust mismanagement from Elouise Cobell’s camp:

    From Bill McAllister:

    WASHINGTON – Senior U.S. District Judge Thomas F. Hogan has given final approval to a $3.4 billion settlement over the federal government’s acknowledged long-running mismanagement of the Indian Trust.

    Unless appealed, the ruling will give Native Americans the largest settlement ever reached with the federal government.

    Once Hogan enters a written opinion on the ruling he gave from the bench Monday, the Interior Department may be able to begin making payments to the nearly 500,000 Native Americans as early as August. Only 92 individuals filed papers to object of the settlement.

    Those numbers indicate that an overwhelming number of Native Americans approve of the settlement, the judge said.

    “I am certainly not convinced that a better result could be achieved by taking it to all the way to trial,” the judge said. “It’s hard to see there could be a better result.”

    If the case had not been settled, Judge Hogan predicted it would linger in the courts for another 15 years.

    After presiding over a daylong fairness hearing on the settlement, Hogan said in an oral ruling he would give final approval to the settlement, holding it to be “fair, reasonable and adequate.”

    The judge also gave high praise to Elouise Cobell, the Blackfeet woman from Montana whose name became synonymous with the class action lawsuit she and four other Indians filed against the government in 1996.

    “She has done more for the individual Native American than any other person in recent years,” said the judge.

    Cobell has shown “unusual effort and courage” in leading the lawsuit, the judge said.

    Lead attorney Dennis M. Gingold said, Cobell “has dedicated her life to righting this wrong.”

    Earlier in the day Cobell told the judge by telephone that the courts had been willing to help Native Americans when the other branches of the federal government failed them.

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Two private firms will begin searching for the names and addresses of Native Americans who qualify for settlement money after U.S. District Judge Thomas F. Hogan gave preliminary approval of the Cobell settlement this week.

The settlement ended a years-long suit brought against the federal government for mismanagement of the trust fund assets of an estimated 600,000 Native Americans. The hearing this week brought federal attorneys and the plaintiffs together and helped set the path for settlement fund dispersal guidelines.

Elouise Cobell was the lead plaintiff. Cobell’s spokesman Bill McAllister released a statement about the agreement Wednesday.

The government has only about half of the 600,000 names and addresses of qualifying participants.

The firms, using a $20 million payment from the settlement, will begin the search immediately. The formal notification period is expected to begin Jan. 20, the judge said.

A “fairness hearing” on the adequacy of proposed disbursements
from the fund was tentatively set for June 20. The judge set the end of an opt-out period in which individual Indian beneficiaries may seek a separate settlement with the government for April 20, the release said.

McAllister wrote in the new release that Judge Hogan stressed that he intends to keep the settlement process open to the public. All hearings will be open to the public and all letters and communications the judge receives will be entered into the public record of the Cobell case.

For more information on who qualifies and to view settlement information, see

Jenna Cederberg

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