indianz.com your internet resource indianz.com on facebook indianz.com on twitter indianz.com on Google+ indianz.com on soundcloud
phone: 202 630 8439
Fredericks Peebles & Morgan LLP
Advertise on Indianz.Com
Home > News > Headlines
Print   Subscribe
Native Sun News: Cobell trust fund settlement moving forward
Wednesday, August 15, 2012
Filed Under: Cobell
More on: charles colombe, doi, land consolidation, native sun news
 
The following story was written and reported by Jesse Abernathy Native Sun News Editor. All content © Native Sun News.


Charlie Colombe, a Rosebud Sioux Tribe rancher, is one of four appellants of the Cobell settlement. As the Aug. 22 deadline for final appeals approaches, the four remain unusually sedate since their last appeals were heard in May. File Photo © Native Sun News.

Cobell settlement moves forward
By Jesse Abernathy
Native Sun News Editor

RAPID CITY — Another milestone has been reached in the over 16-year history of the Cobell saga.

The federal government announced Aug. 10 that Native American tribes don’t have to pay back money appropriated for buying fractionated land under the massive Cobell settlement. Approved by the federal government at the end of 2010, over half of the $3.4 billion lawsuit settlement – $1.9 billion – was set aside specifically for the government’s purchase of divided-up tribal land so it can be returned to each respective tribe.

Calling it “fair and reasonable,” a federal judge further approved the settlement following a daylong fairness hearing in June 2011.

Elouise Cobell, a Blackfeet Nation member from Browning, Mont., originally filed the class-action suit in June 1996 over federal mismanagement of Native trust-land royalties. Cobell died last fall after a brief battle with cancer.

David Hayes, the Department of the Interior’s deputy secretary, said in a written response to U.S. Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., that land purchases made with the money set aside in the settlement are not subject to liens, as reported by The Associated Press. “None of the express purposes of the ($1.9 billion) allow for the imposition of liens on tribes to repay the value of lands acquired” by the government to return to tribes, Hayes said.

“This is excellent news for Indian Country,” Cole said in a statement.

“The Cobell settlement was reached to compensate tribal members for decades of mismanagement,” said Cole. Applying liens “would be tantamount to requiring tribes to fund the United States government’s obligation under the settlement,” he said.

Liens could be placed against the land purchased by the government under the Indian Land Consolidation Act of 1983, and tribes would repay the purchase cost with money earned from the land. The money then went toward buying other divided tribal land. The Interior Department has been working with tribes to reunite land that had been divided among multiple owners over many generations, the AP reports.

Coming as the Aug. 22 final recourse deadline for the four Native appellants of the Cobell settlement looms, the announcement struck a chord with one of them – Charles Colombe, a member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe who owns a ranch on the Rosebud Reservation.

Colombe calls the news “wonderful.”

The government agreed that the $1.9 billion is not a loan, he said, “and that is like a $1.9 billion gift, so I’m glad that there were some holdouts on (disbursement of the settlement money).”

“If the government will pay fair value for what the land is worth, I think it’ll be a better deal than if the money had been a loan. Otherwise, we would have been subsidizing the Cobell settlement for $1.9 billion,” Colombe said, echoing Cole’s sentiment.

The other three appellants are Kimberly Craven, a Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate member; Carol Eve Good Bear, a Three Affiliated Tribes member; and Mary Lee Johns, a Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe member. Craven, the most vocal of the four, filed her appeal separately from Colombe, Good Bear and Johns, who filed a joint appeal listing Good Bear as the lead appellant.

In May, a three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Craven’s appeal, saying her arguments that the settlement is unfair were without merit. At the same time, the court also dismissed the three other appeals, saying the basis for the arguments in that case were “utterly without merit” as well.

With time running out, the four appellants have apparently decided against continuing the battle. They have the options of taking their appeals all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, petitioning for a hearing en banc by the full nine-judge D.C. Circuit Court or accepting the May ruling and doing nothing.

Craven and Good Bear did not immediately respond to requests for comment by Native Sun News regarding the status of their appeals, while Johns could not be immediately reached for comment.

Some Native critics of the four appellants say they are being selfish in holding up the disbursement of the Cobell settlement to Individual Indian Monies (IIM) account holders, many of whom urgently need the funds. Most IIM account holders included as class members in the suit, however, will receive less than $2,000 under the plan, while the settlement lawyers’ take will be approximately $100 million.

As far as what will specifically happen during this final leg of the appeal process, Colombe is uncertain.

“I think we’re going to get blown out of the water, frankly. But we raised some very interesting points in our deliberation, and I think those points deserve some time” to be considered on their legal merits, he said.

Colombe says most people know nothing of how the federal government’s trust-land accounting system works. But, “I do,” he said. “I understand their computer systems. I understand their records. I understand their title work. I understand realty and how you transfer a tract. I’ve been working at it for over 50 years, so I’m supposed to know something.”

In addition, Colombe noted that “there’s not a single person that’s assigned in the whole records-keeping area, specifically, to subdividing tracts of land owned by multiple owners – they call it ‘partitionment.’ Not a single realty person in the Aberdeen or Billings (Montana) area (of the Bureau of Indian Affairs) specifically assigned to that – which, frankly, would be criminal in anyplace but Indian country.”

He is particularly wary of the government’s actual valuation methods for the fractionated land it will be buying back from Native landowners.

“Reservation land – because of its trust status – many, many times is not valued the same as the white man’s land – that’s a fact,” said Colombe. “When you appraise trust land – and the government has their own appraisers – they do not appraise anything but the surface value, so historically the government has put no value on minerals, for one. And, number two, they don’t make other, very valuable considerations – i.e., minerals are severable from the surface value.”

Colombe also says the federal government overlooks the value of hunting in its trust-land appraisals. “In many, many places today, the value of the hunting is greater than the value of the surface,” he noted.

“The government should tell the Indian landowner that he is also giving up his hunting rights – I doubt that they’ll do that,” he said.

The $1.9 billion from the lawsuit settlement is a one-time expenditure that must be spent within 10 years. Any money not spent in 10 years will be returned to the U.S. Treasury.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

(Contact Jesse Abernathy at editor@nsweekly.com)


Copyright © Indianz.Com
More headlines...
Stay Connected:
On Facebook

On Twitter

On Google+

On SoundCloud
Local Links:
Federal Register | Indian Gaming | Jobs & Notices | In The Hoop | Message Board
Latest News:
Indian Health Service discusses LGBT issues at 'historic' meeting (7/28)
Native Sun News: Young artist wins top award at Native market (7/28)
Lakota Country Times: Oglala Sioux Tribe hosts war pony races (7/28)
Steve Russell: The hypocrisy of race and Cherokee citizenship (7/28)
Terese Marie Mailhot: I was raised to be angry at White women (7/28)
IHS hired physician who was sanctioned by Justice Department (7/28)
Tohono O'odham Nation wins round in casino battle with Arizona (7/28)
Wisconsin asks Supreme Court to rule on Ho-Chunk Nation poker (7/28)
Navajo Nation Council passes tax on alcohol at gaming facilities (7/28)
Seminole Tribe reiterates request for mediation in casino dispute (7/28)
Mohegan Tribe fired worker who helped casino regular break rules (7/28)
War of words escalates on mine at sacred Apache site in Arizona (7/27)
Senate Committee on Indian Affairs to take up land-into-trust fix (7/27)
Senate panel sets hearing on substance abuse in Indian Country (7/27)
Red Lake Nation schedules August 19 referendum on liquor sales (7/27)
Poarch Creeks win injunction blocking county from imposing tax (7/27)
Native Sun News: Indian elders suffer from higher dementia risk (7/27)
Lakota Country Times: Lawmakers hear about tribal economies (7/27)
Mark Trahant: Press the Republican candidates on Indian issues (7/27)
Brandon Ecoffey: Race remains an issue for police in Rapid City (7/27)
Cynthia Dunne: Justice has been served in Leonard Peltier case (7/27)
Carly McIntosh: Native name brings me closer to Mother Earth (7/27)
Mississippi Choctaw family seeks answers for county jail death (7/27)
Judge can't reopen Keepseagle case after $380M goes unspent (7/27)
Eastern Pequot Tribal Nation won't drop federal recognition bid (7/27)
Editorial: New Jersey governor quietly obliterates three tribes (7/27)
Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe wins approval for liquor ordinance (7/27)
Seminole Tribe reports lack of progress in casino pact dispute (7/27)
Catawba Nation in talks to bring Hard Rock into gaming plans (7/27)
Graton Rancheria to break ground this fall on hotel at casino (7/27)
Sen. Barrasso defends quick movement on transportation bill (7/24)
Tribal gaming industry sees modest growth to $28.5B in 2014 (7/24)
House lawmakers introduce new version of land-into-trust fix (7/24)
Special Trustee Vince Logan reaching out to Indian Country (7/24)
Native Sun News: Deadwood mayor welcomes Native culture (7/24)
Lakota Country Times: Police aim to improve race relations (7/24)
James Giago Davies: Mixed-race Indians shamed over blood (7/24)
George Abeyta: Stallone Trosper taken from us in act of hate (7/24)
Bill John Baker: Cherokee Nation puts citizens back to work (7/24)
EJ Montini: Money wins in war to protect sacred Apache site (7/24)
Member of Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe runs popular bakery (7/24)
Man from Tulalip Tribes pleads not guilty to new gun charges (7/24)
Opinion: It's time to take a closer look at tribal governance (7/24)
Editorial: Respect the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Tribal Nation (7/24)
Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe owes HUD for casino building (7/24)
Editorial: Colville Tribes realize dream with flagship casino (7/24)
Editorial: Pojoaque Pueblo acts in bad faith in gaming fight (7/24)
San Carlos Apache Tribe clashes with Rep. Gosar after rally (7/23)
Senate committee takes look at regulation of tribal gaming (7/23)
Lawmakers advance Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act in House (7/23)
Senate panel backs victim services and transportation bills (7/23)
House subcommittee takes up Pueblo and Alaska Native bills (7/23)
Native Sun News: Rapid City mayor retaliates against paper (7/23)
Lakota Country Times: Oglala riders win top Indian relay title (7/23)
Vi Waln: Rosebud Sioux Tribe deserves leaders with integrity (7/23)
Vince Two Eagles: Questions about 'Pezhi' in Indian Country (7/23)
Native Sun News Editorial: No honor in being called 'Redskin' (7/23)
Raul Grijalva: Congress must rebuild relationship with tribes (7/23)
Donna Ennis: It's time to take back our cultural sovereignty (7/23)
Tribal members protest handling of major trial in Rapid City (7/23)
Officials back Northern Arapaho Tribe on hate crime charges (7/23)
Quapaw Tribe holds language preservation camp for youth (7/23)
Dennis Whittlesey: Judges disagree on labor law at casinos (7/23)
Chukchansi Tribe can't remove rivals from office near casino (7/23)
Coeur d'Alene Tribe weighs options after losing poker ruling (7/23)
Non-Indian firm drops out of casino race in Massachusetts (7/23)
San Carlos Apache Tribe lands in DC to rally for sacred site (7/22)
Northern Arapaho Tribe calls shooting of men a hate crime (7/22)
Lawmakers show support for Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act (7/22)
NIGC down to one member as leader faces Senate hearing (7/22)
Witness list for House subcommittee hearing on tribal bills (7/22)
Native Sun News: Powwow returns to South Dakota prison (7/22)
Lakota Country Times: Community gathers to discuss race (7/22)
Gyasi Ross: Native youth carry on the strength of our people (7/22)
Mike Myers: A fundamental right to develop our economies (7/22)
Trial opens into racist treatment of Indian children at game (7/22)
Navajo Nation voters ease fluency standard for candidates (7/22)
Standing Rock Sioux Tribe seek to reduce rate of recidivism (7/22)
Catawba Nation envisions $350M film studio on reservation (7/22)
Virginia governor seems less interested in luring NFL team (7/22)
more headlines...


Home | Arts & Entertainment | Business | Canada | Cobell Lawsuit | Education | Environment | Federal Recognition | Federal Register | Forum | Health | Humor | Indian Gaming | Indian Trust | Jack Abramoff Scandal | Jobs & Notices | Law | National | News | Opinion | Politics | Sports | Technology | World

Indianz.Com Terms of Service | Indianz.Com Privacy Policy
About Indianz.Com | Advertise on Indianz.Com

Indianz.Com is a product of Noble Savage Media, LLC and Ho-Chunk, Inc.