The late Elouise Cobell, Blackfeet citizen and lead plaintiff, began the case in 1996, arguing that the Interior Department mismanaged billions of dollars in Indian trust funds and accounts.

Cobell Settlement to Begin Paying Out by Christmas

Rob Capriccioso
11/27/12

The checks are soon to be in the mail.

Those long-awaited words for many in Indian country came from Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar when he announced this week that the federal government was set to release funds designated for the approximately 350,000 Indian class members affected by the $3.4 billion Cobell settlement.

The agreement between the federal government and the Cobell lawyers and lead plaintiffs was first announced in December 2009. It cleared Congress in 2010, and made it through an appeals process that included review by the U.S. Supreme Court on November 24.

“With the settlement now final, we can put years of discord behind us and start a new chapter in our nation-to-nation relationship,” Salazar said in a press release. “Today marks another historic step forward in President [Barack] Obama’s agenda of reconciliation and empowerment for Indian country and begins a new era of trust administration.”

Obama also released his own statement hailing the end of the contentious case and settlement.

“I welcome the final approval of the Cobell settlement agreement, clearing the way for reconciliation between the trust beneficiaries and the federal government,” the president said. “While Elouise Cobell, the named plaintiff in this case is no longer with us, her legacy will be a renewed commitment to our trust relationship with Indian country. I thank her for her honorable work, and also want to thank the leaders at the Departments of the Interior, Justice and Treasury who helped reach this conclusion.”

The president is expected to talk about the case and settlement on December 5 at his fourth White House Tribal Nations Conference since taking office.

Cobell passed away in October 2011 after having battled an unnamed type of cancer. The Blackfeet citizen began the case in 1996, arguing that the Interior Department has mismanaged billions of dollars in Indian trust funds and accounts.

Dennis Gingold, lead lawyer for the Cobell legal team, has told class members that they could begin receiving checks by Christmas.

"We all are happy that this settlement can finally be implemented," Gingold said in a statement. "We deeply regret that Ms. Cobell did not live to see this day."

Lawyers for the Cobell plaintiffs are scheduled to receive approximately $100 million under the deal. Most class members will receive less than $2,000.

Included in the $3.4 billion settlement is a $1.9 billion set-aside for the Interior Department to start a land consolidation program that will allow for the voluntary sale of individual land interests that have fractionated, or split among owners, over years of complex federal policy.

The rest of the money – $1.5 billion, less lawyers’ fees – will be divided among the Indian class members.

“This marks the historic conclusion of a contentious and long running period of litigation,” Hilary Tompkins, Solicitor for the Department of the Interior, added in a statement. “Through the hard work and good will of plaintiffs, Interior and Treasury officials and Department of Justice counsel, we are turning a new page and look forward to collaboratively working with Indian country to manage these important funds and assets.”

The Department of the Interior offered the following details on payments:

Payments to Claimants

The Claims Administrator will now begin overseeing disbursement of the $1.5 billion to nearly 500,000 class members. The court previously approved GCG, Inc., as the Claims Administrator. The Department of the Treasury will transfer the $1.5 billion to an account at JP Morgan Chase, a bank approved by the court. Per the terms of the settlement agreement, Interior’s Office of the Special Trustee (OST) has assisted GCG with its database by supplying contact information of individual class members from its records.

“We will continue to work with GCG to ensure it has the information it needs to make expeditious and accurate payments,” Deputy Secretary of the Interior David J. Hayes said. “At the same time, we’re focused on making meaningful improvements to our trust administration so that we’re more transparent, responsive and accountable in managing these substantial funds and assets.”

Trust Land Consolidation Program

The Department of the Interior will use $1.9 billion from the Trust Land Consolidation Fund to acquire interests in trust and restricted lands that have “fractionated” over successive generations since the 1880s.

Individual owners will be paid fair market value for such interests with the understanding that the acquired interests will remain in trust and be consolidated for beneficial use by tribal communities. Interested sellers may convey their fractional interests on a voluntary basis. Currently, there are over 2.9 million fractional interests owned by approximately 260,000 individuals.

While the settlement was pending, Interior held a series of consultation meetings with tribes in 2011 to ensure that this landmark program incorporates tribal priorities and promotes tribal participation in reducing land fractionation in a timely and efficient way. These discussions informed a draft land consolidation plan released in February of 2012. Interior is incorporating public comments and expects to release an updated plan by the end of the year for additional consultation.

“The land consolidation program is our chance to begin to solve a fractionation problem that has plagued Indian country for decades,” said Interior Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs Kevin K. Washburn. “We are anxious to get started. We know that Interior’s continued outreach through consultations with Indian Country is a crucial component to accomplishing truly open government-to-government communication”

Information about payments should be directed to GCG, Inc. at 1-800-961-6109 or via e-mail at Info@IndianTrust.com, Interior officials said.

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Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
It's about time the federal government is paying part of it dues to the native americans in mishandling of the native american trust funds. Thanks to all the leaders that took part in this landmark settlement and to our dear lady friend (Cobell), May you Rest In Peace.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
Can someone call me or let me know how and who i can speak with, the 1-800-961-6109 isnt really helping. My name is Marshawna Peck 775-934-6943 and my address is 387 Smokey Drive Spring Creek Nv. 89815. My two daughters have received their distrubution on Mon. Dec. 17, 2012 And as of todays date Dec.20, 2012 I have not.. i understand you are busy but at your convenience contact me Please? Thank you have a Merry Christmas. hope to hear a response very soon..

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
Can anyone see what they are selling, I know in realestate, a person looks, at what you are selling, is this really ours to sell, who is selling out mother earth, and what rights do we have, to sell her? All the money in the world, can sell out our enviroment.What about the dawes act? What exactly does that mean?

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
Thank you Eloise Cobell for your dedication to the Native Nations, I agree why are the non-natives receiving 100 million and the native getting less than once more for all the efforts of Eloise Cobell

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
within the past month I read mass information written in the 1800's by nonIndians who clearly was pro-Natives? Bless them for telling the truth found in Felix Cohen, Federal Indian Law Handbook, and other beneficial sources of Historically written truths of what Native American Indians endured during those years? Based on the information provided it says that ALL U.S. Congressional Acts that were passed by the President in those times? Were all written in Favor or the White Congressional leaders and White Settlers whose Only intent in any and all related to Acts Passed by President was to "Grabup Land that belonged to the Native American Indians clear across the U.S!" It was noted that in this time? Cherokee Nation owned 8 Million Acres of Land. And, Congress, the Federal Government WANTED it and got it the only way they knew how? The President wrote the Genocide Act that directed the U.S. Military to "Massacre" all NAI children, infants, Women and Men of all Tribes in that area? The Act directed the Military to tell all NAIs of Cherokee Nation they had to move West and IF, they refused to cooperate? The Military was given Authorization under this ACT to Massacre the entire tribe and surrounding tribes in that area! It even showed Pictures of our Dead Ancestors Piled up on each other like looking at the "Holocaust" in Germany after HItler ordered massacres of Jews? The Picture shows a U.S.Soldier holding a US Flag on his right hand as he puts his right foot on top of a DEAD Native American Indian! He's proud because the Military massacred them in the dead of night as they slept. This still goes on today; but, in different forms that still tragically Impact our People! Like, in the U.S. Code 25, "Indians?" under Subsection 1901: the Indian Child Welfare Act. Congress still has control over our Destiny through OUR CHILDREN! This needs to be Removed right out of the U.S. Code of Laws! Again, shows proof positive that our Natives are still being taken Advantage of through the Federal Governent. Today, the Whites are looking now to what is left of our poor little Reservation Land given to us by the U.S. Federal Government that was already OURS! YES, EVEN though there's Victory in this Cobell Settement? It's MY VIEW the Federal Government should've doled out TRILLIONS OF DOLLARS TO THE NATIVES, not a mere 1 Billion? Then they decide HOW THE OTHER REMAINING $ Should be spent? Where is the INPUT from Natives in this? And, just because the Attorney Firm WON this Case They are awarded an astronomical $200 Million of what Rightfully should've GONE To the NATIVES. I thought there was a "CEILING" Amount of How much Attorneys were to be Granted! Oh yes, almost forgot... This has to do with NATIVE AMERICAN INDIANS... So, it's Irrelevant, right? Give the Attorneys whatever they want! I AGREE. with the others that Say, "Why so little for Account Holders and S000 much to the Attorneys? and, In my View? The U.S. FEDERAL GOVERNMENT STILL OWES, OWES, OWES $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$ To All the Native American Indians clear across the Nation. Pretty difficult to put a Price on What they've Gotten Away with the Trillions Acres of Land, Resources and the valuable resources on Indian Land they continue to Benefit from and leave Nothing but nightmares, injuries, losses and continued Grief by Passing more Congressional ACTS that only Benefit the Whites, NOT our Natives. I say, REMOVE & ABOLISH THE INDIAN CHILD WELFLARE ACT of 1978! It should've in all Good Conscientious Never been Written.Its the Federal Govt's Way of Maintaining Control OVER THEIR "INDIAN PROBLEM," RIGHT? This would be a Real START for the U.S. Congress to truly Make Things Right with Native American Indians. Then rightfully PAY Them for ALL The LAND tHEY STOLE.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
within the past month I read mass information written in the 1800's by nonIndians who clearly was pro-Natives? Bless them for telling the truth found in Felix Cohen, Federal Indian Law Handbook, and other beneficial sources of Historically written truths of what Native American Indians endured during those years? Based on the information provided it says that ALL U.S. Congressional Acts that were passed by the President in those times? Were all written in Favor or the White Congressional leaders and White Settlers whose Only intent in any and all related to Acts Passed by President was to "Grabup Land that belonged to the Native American Indians clear across the U.S!" It was noted that in this time? Cherokee Nation owned 8 Million Acres of Land. And, Congress, the Federal Government WANTED it and got it the only way they knew how? The President wrote the Genocide Act that directed the U.S. Military to "Massacre" all NAI children, infants, Women and Men of all Tribes in that area? The Act directed the Military to tell all NAIs of Cherokee Nation they had to move West and IF, they refused to cooperate? The Military was given Authorization under this ACT to Massacre the entire tribe and surrounding tribes in that area! It even showed Pictures of our Dead Ancestors Piled up on each other like looking at the "Holocaust" in Germany after HItler ordered massacres of Jews? The Picture shows a U.S.Soldier holding a US Flag on his right hand as he puts his right foot on top of a DEAD Native American Indian! He's proud because the Military massacred them in the dead of night as they slept. This still goes on today; but, in different forms that still tragically Impact our People! Like, in the U.S. Code 25, "Indians?" under Subsection 1901: the Indian Child Welfare Act. Congress still has control over our Destiny through OUR CHILDREN! This needs to be Removed right out of the U.S. Code of Laws! Again, shows proof positive that our Natives are still being taken Advantage of through the Federal Governent. Today, the Whites are looking now to what is left of our poor little Reservation Land given to us by the U.S. Federal Government that was already OURS! YES, EVEN though there's Victory in this Cobell Settement? It's MY VIEW the Federal Government should've doled out TRILLIONS OF DOLLARS TO THE NATIVES, not a mere 1 Billion? Then they decide HOW THE OTHER REMAINING $ Should be spent? Where is the INPUT from Natives in this? And, just because the Attorney Firm WON this Case They are awarded an astronomical $200 Million of what Rightfully should've GONE To the NATIVES. I thought there was a "CEILING" Amount of How much Attorneys were to be Granted! Oh yes, almost forgot... This has to do with NATIVE AMERICAN INDIANS... So, it's Irrelevant, right? Give the Attorneys whatever they want! I AGREE. with the others that Say, "Why so little for Account Holders and S000 much to the Attorneys? and, In my View? The U.S. FEDERAL GOVERNMENT STILL OWES, OWES, OWES $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$ To All the Native American Indians clear across the Nation. Pretty difficult to put a Price on What they've Gotten Away with the Trillions Acres of Land, Resources and the valuable resources on Indian Land they continue to Benefit from and leave Nothing but nightmares, injuries, losses and continued Grief by Passing more Congressional ACTS that only Benefit the Whites, NOT our Natives. I say, REMOVE & ABOLISH THE INDIAN CHILD WELFLARE ACT of 1978! It should've in all Good Conscientious Never been Written.Its the Federal Govt's Way of Maintaining Control OVER THEIR "INDIAN PROBLEM," RIGHT? This would be a Real START for the U.S. Congress to truly Make Things Right with Native American Indians. Then rightfully PAY Them for ALL The LAND tHEY STOLE.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
To the non natives ighting comments don't even worry about what is going on with that bussiness its for us not u also thank yyou brave woman for this help it really came at the right time because I was almost down and out but I checked my mail n there was a check hopefully we will get the rest soon:-)

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
still wait'n for our payment in NM, tried calling the 800# even though they say you don't need to file a claim if your account is active, but where is our claim?

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
How does one get an application to submit for the trust fund> And how long does it take? Put info on line so everyone gets to read it, not just the choosen ones Thank God for Elousie Cobell, smart women who stood up for our rights What is wrong with the tribal attorneys working in Indian Country?

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
i am an enrolled tribal member of the Fort Peck Assisniboine Sioux but live in Denver Co...when/how do i ge my check rporter1030@aol.com 1/14/2013

mary hogrefe's picture
mary hogrefe
Submitted by mary hogrefe on
I am glad the american Indians are finally getting what is due to them sinc thi country was stolen from the in the first place. there are those of us that are called afrcan americans which is the wrong term because many of us have indian, white and african because of being brought here for the purpose of being a slave many of our relative came in through Jamestown virginia, that is where the mixing of the races beganI do know why it happened but it did.I do not know why this continues to be ignored like it never happened.any one want to comment on this.

Carolyn S. scarlett's picture
Carolyn S. scarlett
Submitted by Carolyn S. scarlett on
My mother born 1927 in alaska & I am born 1954 registrated as Alaskan Tlingit & Haida Indian. We did not know about the settlement with the gov. please email me information:carolynscarlett@hotmail.com &m.strehlow@hotmail.com

qilaav's picture
qilaav
Submitted by qilaav on
About time they are going to disperse our money! I am sad that Elouise did not get to see this historic day even though the gov has duped us again! Rest in peace, Elouise!

Addlee Plain Bull, Crow's picture
Addlee Plain Bu...
Submitted by Addlee Plain Bu... on
My address was completely messed up even though I went through proper procedure to notify Cobell Case Administrators. It was simply fortuitous that I knew Postmaster and he held my check for me. I do not know if my second check is safe.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
Damn always have Indian complaining about money should be happy your getting something smh Many ahos Elouise Cobell

Annonymous's picture
Annonymous
Submitted by Annonymous on
DEDIES you are RIGHT! This is just trivial hush money. Natives are being cheated again and everyone allowed to this happen inorder to receive $1,000.00 WOW...REALLY? The people who had millions stolen from the land containing minerals and oil can NEVER seek JUSTICE and every government agency, tribal official and mining company that was involved in the highst got away with it. This will hurt generations to come! This is pocket change and the attorney's are getting all the money. You all gave up your RIGHTS over pocket change. "Read between the lines and get educated on what really just happened to 500,000 people."

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
One of the stipulations of excepting this measly check is that you, nor any of your children, or your children's children, may ever sue the government for any reason whatsoever. Excepting this check is to strip your rights away. You will have no voice, and the government can do as they please, like they always have. All for a pathetic $1,000. This is just a cheap way for the government to do what they want to our Native American people, but now there is nothing you can do about it because excepting these checks has taken your right away to say anything, or do anything about it. This is another scheme by our corrupted government to take away our rights more than they already have.

unknown's picture
unknown
Submitted by unknown on
I am an enrolled tribal member and refused the money. I feel my grandparents were never paid what was rightfully theirs. Therefore, many of us will be suing the Government for the correct value of our land that was mismanaged, not a merely thousand dollars.

darrell silk's picture
darrell silk
Submitted by darrell silk on
I hoped to have a great christmas thank u all for blessing us all!!! god bles u all!!!

robert's picture
robert
Submitted by robert on
must be nice all the indians get all this free money and not have to work for it but us whites dont get shit no wonder theres so much racist and hate in this world...

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
On our reservation we have made non-Indian farmers millionaires, because our land was leased for a pittance per acre through the years being addressed. If the BIA was there for Indian interests, we would be receiving more now from the Cobell funds, but the payments are based on what we were paid by the farmers on an annual basis. Only a single landowner will receive more, but if it is fractioned land, then you receive only a fraction from Cobell. Question will be asked, why didn't the Indian farm the land? The non-Indian (farmer) can go to the bank and get a loan based on his lease of Indian land, but the Indian cannot go to the bank and use his land for collateral to farm his own land. The non-Indian farmer is subsidized by the federal government programs, as well. This process is still on-going. Yes, thank you Eloise Cobell for all your efforts on behalf of our Indian people. I'm sure all the attorneys thank you, too.

Rubyrussell's picture
Rubyrussell
Submitted by Rubyrussell on
I'm relieved that the settlement is finally at this final stage.

Rubyrussell's picture
Rubyrussell
Submitted by Rubyrussell on
I'm relieved that the settlement is finally at this final stage.

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