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Navajo Nation formally accepts $554M trust fund settlement






Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly. Photo by Rick Abasta/Navajo Nation Office of the President and Vice President

The Navajo Nation expects to see $554 million from a trust fund settlement within 120 days, President Ben Shelly said on Wednesday.

During a ceremony in Window Rock, Arizona, the tribe's capital, Shelly signed a Navajo Nation Council resolution that ratified the settlement. He thanked tribal leaders who worked on the deal and attorneys who handled the litigation over the past eight years.

"We will be receiving the money in 120 days and it will be in our bank," Shelly said yesterday. "In the meantime, we need to put a plan together -- I think we need to call it an investment plan."

The tribe sued the Interior Department in 2006 for mismanagement of its trust funds and trust assets. The settlement is the largest single tribal payout so far.

"We are holding the United States accountable for the mismanagement of our trust funds, of our lands, of our resources," Navajo Nation Attorney General Harrison Tsosie said.

The tribe previously sued the federal government for breach of trust regarding a coal lease. The dispute went to the U.S. Supreme Court twice, Tsosie noted.

"We didn't get a cent out of those cases," Tsosie said. The tribe lost in 2003 and again in 2009.

In that dispute, the tribe claimed $600 million in damages. The amount somewhat corresponds to the settlement reached with the Obama administration although the two cases are different.

Including the Navajo Nation, the Obama administration has reached settlements with 73 tribes.

SIGNING CEREMONY on USTREAM:

Broadcast live streaming video on Ustream

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