Jodi Rave: Testimony continues in historic Cobell trial
"A federal judge took note of witness testimonies last week in a landmark trial that will award a historic cash settlement to Native landowners in a class-action lawsuit against the Interior Department.

U.S. District Judge James Robertson will determine who gets award money and how much. He will likely make a decision by the end of summer.

Lawyers in the Elouise Cobell vs. Dirk Kempthorne trial have told the judge a settlement figure rests between $400 million and $58 billion.

The case has spanned a dozen years. Last week's proceedings ended Thursday and will resume on Monday. The trial is expected to last between two to three weeks.

Cobell, the lead plaintiff and a resident of the Blackfeet Reservation, filed suit in June 1996 on behalf of 500,000 Native landowners across the country. At stake is money earned from natural resource income from grazing leases, mining proceeds and sales of timber, oil and gas. Billions of dollars have been collected and held in trust by the U.S. Interior and Treasury departments, respectively. The departments and their bureaus have been designated by Congress to distribute the money to indigenous people.

The accounts were created as the result of Congress' 1887 General Allotment Act, known as the Dawes Act. The measure called for dividing large, land-based reservations into tiny plots which were then allotted to individual tribal members. Any remaining land was given to non-Indians for settlement.

Government lawyers and attorneys for the Indians have been sparring for years about how much money went into Individual Indian Money, or IIM accounts, since 1887.

January court filings show an estimated $14.3 billion was collected between 1909 and 2005 for the IIM accounts. About $10.7 billion was distributed to account holders. The Interior and Treasury departments can't explain what happened to remaining $3.6 billion."

Get the Story:
Jodi Rave: Testimony continues in historic case (The Missoulian 6/15)

Trial Transcripts:
June 9 AM | June 9 PM | June 10 AM | June 10 PM | June 11 | June 12 AM

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