Fredericks Peebles & Morgan LLP
ads@blueearthmarketing.com   712.224.5420

Cobell | Opinion
Opinion: Cobell case settled for pennies on the dollar


"In 1994, as mineral and gas corporations were discovering new reserves of oil and gas on tribal reservations across the West, a feisty middle-aged Blackfeet woman named Elouise Cobell decided the time had come to begin a long-overdue accounting of mineral royalties on tribal lands.

In December 2009, this sordid scandal inched its way toward closure when Cobell and her lawyers, along with their new counterparts at the Justice and Interior departments, announced they had arrived at a $3.4 billion settlement. The final paperwork will take months to get through Congress, but translated into real-world numbers, the deal amounts to a $1,000 payment to every plaintiff in the case. It also establishes a $60 million account to enhance educational opportunities for Native students.

"I spent a lifetime trying to get justice," Cobell, now 64, said last week. "This has been with me since I was a child, hearing about people not having money, hearing people say, 'If I had money I would buy clothing for my child.' I feel very fortunate that I was able to fight for the underrepresented."

Like the plaintiffs, President Barack Obama viewed this suit as a stain on the nation, and he came to the White House determined to see it settled. "When he campaigned in Indian country, he listened to us," Cobell says. "He was true to his word." Obama hailed the settlement as "an important step toward sincere reconciliation between the government and the Indians."

We'll see. After spending 20 years in the West dealing with white settlers and tribal chiefs, Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman described tribal reservations as "a parcel of land -- set aside for the exclusive use of Indians -- surrounded by thieves." If you happen to live in White Shield, N.D., Window Rock, Ariz., or Lame Deer, Mont., in 2010, you're left to ask: "So what's changed in a hundred years?""

Get the Story:
Paul VanDevelder: This confederacy of thieves (The Oregonian 2/7)

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

Related Stories:
Opinion: Cobell trust settlement addresses land issues (02/01)
Deadline approaches to approve trust fund settlement (02/01)
Dennis Gingold: The facts behind trust fund settlement (1/29)
Bill Martin: No rubber stamp for trust fund settlement (1/26)
Editorial: Congress must act fast on Cobell settlement (1/22)
Chickasaw firm secures land consolidation contract (1/21)
Opinion: Indian trust beneficiaries finally getting paid? (1/20)
Interview with Elliott Levitas, attorney for Cobell case (1/18)
Millions coming to Montana under Cobell settlement (01/07)
Congress gets more time to act on Cobell settlement (1/6)
Editorial: A long overdue settlement to Cobell lawsuit (1/6)
Editorial: A long overdue settlement to Cobell lawsuit (1/6)
Letters: A good settlement to Indian trust fund case (12/21)
Cobell urges Senate to move quickly on settlement (12/18)
Column: Free Indians of federal government control (12/18)
Column: Cobell deal not so great for Indian Country (12/18)
Editorial: Cobell deal corrects century-old old wrong (12/18)
Editorial: Settlement and accountability in trust fund (12/18)
Witness List: Senate hearing on Cobell settlement (12/16)
Mary Pember: The small picture of the Cobell deal (12/16)
Opinion: Deal won't change much in Indian Country (12/16)
Editorial: Settlement in Cobell case is long overdue (12/16)
Editorial: Act quickly to approve Cobell settlement (12/16)
Bill Means: Cobell settlement a rip-off for Indians (12/15)
Editorial: At last a settlement in Cobell trust case (12/15)
North Dakota tribes back settlement in Cobell case (12/14)
Opinion: Indian plaintiff won't see trust settlement (12/14)
Column: Navajo woman helped resolve Cobell case (12/14)
Editorial: Preventing future trust mismanagement (12/14)
Editorial: Approve settlement to Cobell trust case (12/14)
Senate committee sets Cobell settlement hearing (12/11)
Washington tribes react to Cobell case settlement (12/11)
Editorial: Land consolidation program 'worrisome' (12/11)
Lynne Harlan: A new era in federal Indian relations (12/11)
Column: Cowboy banks got paid more than Indians (12/11)
Editorial: Settling more than a century of injustice (12/11)
Editorial: Support settlement for Cobell trust case (12/11)
Editorial: Acknowledge past mistakes in trust fund (12/11)
Editorial: A long overdue settlement to Cobell suit (12/11)
NARF welcomes settlement in Cobell trust lawsuit (12/10)
Cobell hailed as warrior as she returns to Montana (12/10)
Billings Paper: Cobell deal sends $27M to Montana (12/10)
Editorial: Cobell settlement fair for Indian Country (12/10)
Editorial: Welcome settlement to Cobell trust case (12/10)
Mostly praise for $3.4B settlement to Cobell lawsuit (12/9)
Editorial: Act quickly on Indian trust fund settlement (12/9)
Twitter Recap of Cobell settlement with Photos (12/8)
Statement by President Obama on Cobell settlement (12/8)
Statement by Sen. Dorgan on Cobell settlement (12/8)
Statement by Sen. McCain on Cobell settlement (12/8)
Statement by Sen. Tester on Cobell settlement (12/8)
Statement by Rep. Rahall on Cobell settlement (12/8)
Statement by Rep. Cole and Rep. Kildee on Cobell settlement (12/8)
'Major' announcement on Indian trust management (12/8)