After nearly 17 years of courtroom arguments, congressional negotiations and Indian Country bickering, hundreds of thousands of Native Americans could see the first payments of a $3.4 billion U.S. government settlement by the end of the year, plaintiffs’ attorneys said Monday.
The settlement between American Indians across the nation and the government over more than a century’s worth of squandered and mismanaged land trust royalties became final on Friday, when the appeal period expired.
One of the largest U.S. government settlements in history began with a lawsuit filed in 1996 by Elouise Cobell of Browning, Mont. The Blackfeet leader observed that those who leased Indian land made money from its natural resources, while the Indians themselves remained in poverty with no accounting of the royalties from that land that were held in trust for them by the government
Cobell herself led the fight against the government for more than 15 years before she died of cancer last year.