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Cobell | Opinion
Editorial: Land consolidation program 'worrisome'


"It is hard to understate the significance of this proposed settlement, though it still must clear several hurdles before Indian beneficiaries start seeing checks in the mail. Congress must pass legislation approving the settlement, and the court overseeing the lawsuit then must endorse the settlement.

The settlement would affect more than 500,000 Individual Indian Money account holders, which include individuals who have land or resources being held in trust by the federal government, according to the plaintiffs.

If the settlement is approved, Indian plaintiffs each would receive a $1,000 check.

However, many questions remain about the settlement. The $2 billion land buy-back program is especially worrisome.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar acknowledged that some individual plaintiffs would be skeptical about selling their interests to the federal government. He called the plan a “land consolidation program” aimed at offering individual Indians cash for their divided land interests and then transferring those interests back to tribes.

The government would set aside up to five percent of the value of those interests in a college and vocational scholarship fund for Native students.

What isn’t clear is exactly how the buy-back program would work and whether the government will succeed at assuaging the long-held distrust so many Native people feel for the government. Indeed, its terrible track record on managing Indian lands and resources is the reason for the Cobell lawsuit in the first place."

Get the Story:
Editorial: Cautious times for Cobell (Indian Country Today 12/11)

Relevant Documents:
Agreement | Press Release | Q&A | Audio

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