U.S. pays $1B to settle Indian fund-mismanagement suits
Some American Indian tribes will benefit from a $1 billion settlement with the federal government over mismanagement of tribal money and trust lands, including a few Northwest tribes.
The Associated Press
YAKIMA — The U.S. will pay more than $1 billion to settle a series of lawsuits brought by American Indian tribes over mismanagement of tribal money and trust lands, under a settlement announced Wednesday.
The agreement resolves claims brought by 41 tribes — including some in Washington state — to reclaim money lost in mismanaged accounts and from royalties for oil, gas, grazing and timber rights on tribal lands.
Negotiations continue on dozens of other cases.
The settlement was announced by the Justice Department and the Interior Department, which manages more than 100,000 leases on tribal trust lands and about 2,500 tribal trust accounts for more than 250 federally recognized tribes.
"These settlements fairly and honorably resolve historical grievances over the accounting and management of tribal trust funds, trust lands and other non-monetary trust resources that, for far too long, have been a source of conflict between Indian tribes and the United States," Attorney General Eric Holder said.
Ending the dispute allows the governments involved to move beyond distrust and antagonism, and empowers Indian communities going forward, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said.
The amount of money individual tribes will get varies widely.
The Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, whose reservation covers southwest Colorado, southeast Utah and northern New Mexico, will receive nearly $42.6 million.
Idaho's Nez Perce Tribe will get nearly $34 million.
By comparison, the tiny Nooksack Tribe in Whatcom County will receive $25,000. The tribe has about 2,000 members.
Washington state's Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, also part of the settlement, had announced a $193 million settlement in February.
A total of 114 tribal governments filed suit after Elouise Cobell, a member of the Blackfeet Tribe from Browning, Mont., brought a similar claim on behalf of thousands of individual Indians over the government's mismanagement of their trust lands.
The government ultimately settled the Cobell case for $3.4 billion, but it remains under appeal by four people for various reasons.
Associated Press reporter Matthew Daly contributed from Washington, D.C.