Editorial: Partisan gridlock in Senate holds up Cobell settlement
"American history abounds with instances of the federal government breaking its promises to Indian tribes. History isn’t over. One example of federal faithlessness has roots that date back to Grover Cleveland’s first administration, and it will fester on unless Congress works out its differences on unemployment compensation.

The contentious jobless-pay issue has nothing to do with mismanagement of Indian trust accounts, but that’s where Congress inserted a landmark settlement that the Obama administration announced last December after 14 years of complicated class-action litigation.

The reasonable approach would have been to put the settlement in a bill of its own, pass it and begin rectifying confessed errors. But Congress doesn’t always act reasonably, and now, because the unemployment bill is bogged down over a filibuster threat, so is the healing.

In 1887, Congress enacted the General Allotment Act, under which the government began carving up Indian reservations, then owned by the tribes, and distributed some 54 million acres to individual tribal members. Nearly half a century later the allotment process was halted, but the federal government held the lands in trust, managing them for the income that could be derived from grazing, logging, mining, and oil and gas production.

Authorities never gave the half million affected tribal members any accounting of how their property was doing, however, and frustrated members – including Blackfeet Tribe member Elouise Cobell of Browning, Mont. – finally sued, claiming they’d been cheated out of their rightful income."

Get the Story:
Editorial: Gridlock perpetuates decades-old broken trust (The Spokesman Review 7/1)

Cobell Settlement Documents:
Agreement | Press Release | Q&A | Audio

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