Blackfeet Eloise Cobell Wins Big for American Indians

by jhwygirl

So very rare such a huge concession from Uncle Sam – and today, Blackfeet tribal member and lead plaintiff Eloise Cobell won her 13-year battle to collect damages from the U.S. government for mismanagement of the lands that were to be held in trust for the tribes.

Big enough that the New York Times still has it frontpaged.

The government doesn’t very often offer a settlement of $3.4 billion. It’s a combination cash payment to the 500,000 litigants, an educational scholarship fund and a fund for purchase and consolidation of land holdings to improve the quality of lands the tribes hold.

The NYT article (above) and this NPR article both include interviews with Cobell. NewWest includes some nice background, plus a statement from Sec. of Interior Ken Salazar. Bozeman’s Daily Chronicle has a local reaction out of MSU.

Quite amazing.

  1. problembear

    this is very good news for lots of families in need accross montana. bush offered a measly 700M. which was just an insult. good for usa manning up and doing the right thing.

    lots of good education provisions and necessities that will make many lives much better.

    • Big Swede

      Will it make for better lives?

      Have past large settlements with Native Americans resulted in an improved overall quality of life?

      For once I’d like someone to “follow the money” as it flows through the tribal system. Unfortunately, no one dare open Pandora’s Box.

      • JC

        Quit changing the subject. This was tribal money to begin with, and was basically stolen from them.

        This is a negotiated restitution. Got a problem with that? Or is it ok for the government to steal and not be held accountable? To take advantage of a class of citizens that at one time had zero political power?

        This settlement is about doing the right thing for the right reason. And trying to divert the topic to other issues in an attempt to discredit the settlement is just so… tea baggerish.

        You want to “follow the money?” Why don’t you diagram out the lobbyist money and personnel that moves in and out of Max Baucus’ office. That should keep you busy for a fortnight.

        • Big Swede

          What’s Max got to do with this?

          Changing the subject, JC?

          • JC

            Nope. I was speaking to the topic at hand. Something which you have yet to do.

          • cuzint

            You’re obviously ignorant or racist. Having worked with tribes all my career, and being a tribal member, and studying the history of our people, and working with white people and white organizations, I constantly see an intense level of ignorance about this issue and what it means. You people are not just ignorant of this, but you want to be ignorant. You don’t want to know about the background of what led to this, and you don’t even want to comprehend the levels of abuse and injustice that have been inflicted on Native Americans. This settlement is an insult, a slap in the face, from an oppressive government that has not only allowed these thefts to take place, but has encouraged them and participated in the thievery every way possible. This is just one more aspect of the colonizing practices of a government that wishes Natives were extinct or would go away. Rest assured, we will not go away and we will be here long after this oppressive government is gone and replaced. Keep that in the back of your mind as you continue to spew your racist comments and ignorance.

  2. petetalbot

    My wife’s family is Blackfeet and I heard the howls of excitement from the kitchen tonight as they were watching the evening news. This is a great story and justice is (finally) served.

  3. Big Swede

    Ok, Pete and JC, here’s the rest of the story. Via Billings Gazette.

    >>The proposed $3.4 billion settlement includes $1.4 billion to settle individual claims from tribal members nationwide. Most would receive $1,500 eventually, if Congress and a federal judge approve the deal.
    The other $2 billion is to be used for a 10-year effort to address underlying problems of administering these accounts. The money would go to a consolidation fund to purchase fractions of interest in Indian land from willing sellers. The seller would receive fair value for the land, which would then become tribal property. As an incentive to sell, the federal government also would contribute at least $10 or 5 percent of the purchased land value to a college scholarship fund for Indians.<<

    So they're getting a whooping 1.5K (eventually) and the balance goes for adm. costs.

    That'll make a difference.

    • petetalbot

      Let me tell you, Swede, my mother-in-law will be damn thrilled to get $1500.

    • The Polish Wolf

      Big Swede, what do you imagine is more efficient – giving individuals money once, or investing the money into improving the efficiency of their assets? You’re a businessman, after all, right? Think of it as maintaining the proper balance between investing in the business and paying out dividends. The direct cash won’t make a difference (though it will be a nice bonus), but the land consolidation may have long term effects.

  4. Vernia Birdsbill/Garza

    Thank you Eloise Cobell for all you’ve done to help our people. You are a true inspiration to myself as well as our six beautiful daughter’s & three handsome boy’s. You totally fight for what you believe in which is your people.

    Vernia R. Birdsbill/Garza

  5. This issue is not settled yet. I would advise lease holders not to hold their breath. I hear the timetable for any disbursement of funds, providing it gets approved by another judge, is anywhere from 12-18 months. One thing Bid Swede did not list was the amount the attorneys will take…that will be a huge chunk.

  6. The Polish Wolf

    Lucy – that’s true, it will still take some time to get this all worked out. Fortunately, attorney’s fees are capped at 3%, which is a very good rate for a lawsuit of this duration.

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