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Interior Annouces Cobell Settlement Is Final—Enjoy the Moment!

Jay Daniels
11/29/12

On November 26, 2012, the Secretary of the Interior announced in a press release that the Cobell litigation is final and the department will implement the final steps for the settlement payment.

During the past couple of years, everyone has blamed a host of players as reasons for the delay in making payments to class member parties in accordance with the settlement agreement approved by the court in December 2010.

This is neither here nor there now because payment will be forthcoming and everyone will be happy because they may receive their payment just in time for the holidays. Sad to say folks but expectation usually is more exciting than the gift. Many a child has received presents on Christmas morning and exhibited great joy in unwrapping and playing with their new toys on that exciting day. Mom and Dad are happy and relieved to see the joy in their children’s eyes during that wonderful moment. But there is always the day aftereffect.  This occurs when kids see and compare their presents with their relatives' and friends' presents, family and friends have gone home, and all of a sudden kids may feel robbed of their expectation. That pretty red wagon is sitting in the corner with a broken wheel, the doll’s head is broken off, the electronic game isn’t as exciting as they thought, and on and on. A hangover effect roots in and now we need something new to excite us.

It isn’t going to happen folks. The acceptance of the payment will conclude hundreds of years of injustice and failure to adequately protect our treaty rights. It will be hard to express our belief that we were wronged in the past because now it is made right with the settlement and payment. Why? Because the Cobell settlement agreement (Agreement) explicitly states:

…”shall be deemed to have released, waived and forever (emphasis added) discharged the Releasees from, and the Mismanagement Releasors shall be deemed to be forever barred and precluded from prosecuting, any and all claims and/or causes of action that were, or should have been, asserted in the Amended Complaint when it was filed…”

The recipients of the payment are the Releasors. This statement includes both Trust Administration and Historical Accounting Class members evidenced in the Agreement. Now, I’m not a lawyer, but I do understand the English language as written out in the preceding agreement stipulation. Imagine if an individual Indian walks into a Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) office and says “I just found out I didn’t receive all of my money in 1988 for a right-of-way payment, can you help me?”  Good luck on that question. Everyone will start over with a clean slate. Most folks really don’t have to worry much if they are members only in the Historical Accounting Class because the Office of the Special Trustee (OST) assumed oversight and management of IIM accounts during the period affecting those class members and has the accounting information necessary to ensure and provide documentation verifying correct payment was received. This class is presumed not to have owned trust land interest prior to the discharge of duties to OST.

 

But for those members of the Trust Administration Class, submitting a complaint to the BIA for possible erroneous or missing trust payments may be entertained, but most likely not acted upon. It will be like the day after Christmas. The toys are broken, not as fun as we thought, didn’t really get what we wanted, etc. We can complain, but it’s too late because now it’s over. I used to think that the moment someone accepted a payment check, it would be done and any complaining about the past would mean nothing. I have now come to understand, it wouldn’t be over once you accepted the check. It was over when the U.S. Supreme Court denied cert on Ms. Kimberly Craven’s appeal, and Ms. Carol Good Bear, Ms. Mary Lee Johns, and Mr. Charles Columbe’s decision to settle with Cobell while on appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court possibly due to the writing on the wall. An article in the November 27, 2012 Rapid City Journal titled “Cobell checks could arrive before Christmas” quoted Cobell Class Counsel Dennis Gingold saying “So, if we keep our fingers crossed, people can have a nice little Christmas.” Shouldn’t a historical case of the magnitude of the Cobell settlement make it a “great Christmas” rather than a “nice little Christmas?” Anyway, it’s going to be a wonderful Christmas in Indian country, until the day after.

Jay Daniels has 30 years of experience working in Indian Country, managing trust lands and is a member of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. You can find resources and information at his site, RoundhouseTalk.com.

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Anonymous's picture
You speak as if all of Ms. Cobe work and dedication meant nothing. All of the money in the world cannot make up for all of the wrong doings we have had to endure, it's not the amount of money in our pocket, but the amount of pride we should feel that Ms. Cobell made the Government step up to the plate with hat in hand.....
Anonymous
Anonymous's picture
Yes. The average estimated amount of $1,000 or $1,500 won't even cover one month's rent in many places, like where I live. It'll get pissed away paying for Christmas or paying off a credit card and then all it will be is a memory (make sure to take a picture of that check for posterity's sake before you take it to the bank). Remember, it's just a settlement because we'll never know just how much money was stolen....Cobell's lawyers estimated that it was most likely a lot more than $3.4 billion, but of course it's not provable. The number is not much more than a wild guess that basically lets the federal government off the hook because we couldn't go another 15 years in court.
Anonymous
Anonymous's picture
exactly
Anonymous
Anonymous's picture
Mr. Daniels fails to write that the Trust Accounting class HAD the right to opt out of the settlement. If they felt that it was not a good deal for them, they should should have done so in order to preserve their rights for any future claims. All had a choice in the matter as far as the Trust Accounting class goes.
Anonymous
Anonymous's picture
do you pay taxes on these payments/
Anonymous
Anonymous's picture
Have to see it to beleive it.
Anonymous
Anonymous's picture
Thanks Jay. When I was growing up people in Indian Country often said "When I get my Indian money, I'm going to . . ." For all the land taken we received 50 cents an acre for prime timbered real estate in Washington state. Our families were "homesteaded" of their property and out of their homes in the 1920's. For all of that we received 50 cents many years later. I wish we had that negotiation over again.
Anonymous
candyo's picture
Given the time it took to settle this class-action, the immense amount of paperwork, and the perserverance of Keith Harper and the Stockton people, it is a monumental feat to get this completed. Like any lawsuit that wants to make the injured person whole again, this small amount of cash will not do that, however, it's more than most have at this point in time given the economy... I'm thankful to Eloise Cobell! CMO
candyo
Anonymous's picture
" Aho'."
Anonymous
Anonymous's picture
What's the point of the Christmas mumbo jumbo? I'm due to have a baby on December 30th this year and I'll tell you something.. I am not thinking about the day after Christmas depression. I'm pretty sure I'm not alone.
Anonymous

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