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Opinion: Cobell trust fund settlement payout 'insultingly small'

Filed Under: Cobell | Opinion
More on: oklahoma

"Her Blackfeet Nation name was Yellow Bird Woman but during many years of contentious litigation attorneys for the federal government undoubtedly described Native American activist Elouise P. Cobell in more colorful terms.

Yet Cobell, lead plaintiff in a groundbreaking 1996 class-action lawsuit, never gave up on her dream of seeing indigenous tribes compensated for the government's mishandling of Indian accounts and trust funds.

Unfortunately, Cobell, along with another original plaintiff, Oklahoman and Apache tribal member Mildred Cleghorn, are not around to see the final chapter. Cobell, 65, succumbed to cancer in October 2011, not long after the lawsuit was settled for $3.4 billion. Cleghorn, 85, one of five original plaintiffs, died in a car accident in 1997.

The settlement will pay $1.5 billion to 500,000 Native Americans, including 50,000 Oklahomans. One class of beneficiaries will receive $1,000 and the other class will receive $800 as well as a share of the balance of the settlement funds as calculated by a formula based on the activity in their trust accounts. Some checks will be sent out this month.

The settlement approved and funded by Congress also puts in place a $60 million scholarship fund for young Indians and establishes a $2 billion Trust Land Consolidation Fund. A commission will be created to oversee and monitor the government's management and accounting of individual Indian trust accounts.

Not a minute too soon."

Get the Story:
Julie DelCour: Righting A Wrong (The Tulsa World 12/2)

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Jay Daniels: Christmas and Cobell - what about the day after? (11/29)
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Tribal members in Wyoming could see $8M from Cobell payout (11/29)
Cobell settlement comes too late for beneficiaries who passed (11/29)
Checks for $3.4B Cobell settlement expected in mid-December (11/28)
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Obama announces final approval for Cobell settlement payout (11/26)
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Geoffrey Rempel: The truth behind the withdrawn Cobell appeal (11/12)
Ask Elouise: Appeals of $3.4B Cobell trust settlement dismissed (11/8)
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Secretary Salazar anticipates Cobell payments by end of year (10/23)
Beneficiaries want Supreme Court to review Cobell settlement (09/24)
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Ask Elouise: Lead counsel Dennis Gingold on status of payout (09/11)
Native Sun News: Cobell settlement on hold with more appeals (08/31)
Reply for Kimberly Craven's Cobell appeal due September 21 (08/24)
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Cobell critic asks Supreme Court to review $3.4B settlement (08/20)

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