Master of Jurisprudence in Indian Law - University of Tulsa College of Law
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Cobell | Opinion
Editorial: Cobell settlement brings hope for Indian Country


"Sometimes it seems that all we ever report about American Indians in the media is bad. The problems of poverty, alcoholism, joblessness and general despair on this state’s Indian reservations, for example, have been chronicled so exhaustively that some readers barely consider it news anymore.

This week, though, we’ve had the pleasure of including two stories about Indians in our newspaper that were decidedly positive.

The first story was published in Monday’s edition. Associated Press reporter Matt Volz wrote an excellent account of Elouise Cobell’s 14-year struggle to make the federal government compensate Indians for the government’s longstanding mismanagement of Indian trust accounts.

Cobell, from the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in Montana, is closing in on a $3.4 billion settlement of a class action lawsuit that she filed on behalf of between 300,000 and 500,000 Indians who own property that the government holds in trust. The government is supposed to put the money generated by the land into Individual Indian Money trust accounts, or IIMs. Cobell began pursuing the lawsuit 14 years ago after she discovered, according to the AP story, that “there was no real accounting of how much money was in the trust pool of IIM accounts.” As a result, Indians were getting shortchanged to the tune of billions of dollars.

Some $2 billion from the proposed settlement would be used by the government to buy up fractionated Indian lands from individual owners willing to sell, and the lands would then be turned over to tribes. Another $1.4 billion from the settlement would go to individual Indian account holders.

Cobell should be proud of the example she’s set. We believe that persistent efforts such as hers — emanating from a reservation rather than from outside it — hold the most potential for sparking positive change in the destitute pockets of Indian country."

Get the Story:
Our View: Good to see Indians win ‘for once’ (The Mitchell Daily Republic 5/26)
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Cobell Settlement Documents:
Agreement | Press Release | Q&A | Audio

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