Indian farmers rally over $380M in unspent Keepseagle funds

Indian farmers and ranchers held a protest outside the federal courthouse last December in Washington, D.C. Photo from Association of American Indian Farmers / Facebook

Indian farmers and ranchers are holding a rally in Washington, D.C., this morning as a federal judge considers what will happen with $380 million in leftover funds from the Keepseagle settlement.

The Obama administration settled the case in 2011 for $760 million. Of that amount, $680 million was supposed to go to Indian farmers and ranchers who experienced discrimination at the Department of Agriculture.

But only about 3,600 Indian farmers and ranchers successfully qualified for payments, The Sioux Falls Argus Leader reported. That has opened debate about the fate of $380 million in cy pres funds.

The attorneys who handled the case and the Obama administration have proposed creating a new trust fund with the money. Some $38 million would be distributed immediately to non-profits in Indian Country while the rest would be distributed over a 20-year period.

Marilyn and George Keepsagle, the named plaintiffs, oppose the idea. They are calling on on Judge Emmet Sullivan to authorize another round of payments to the successful claimants or to reopen the process to Indian farmers and ranchers who missed out.

"The Keepseagles’ proposal would most effectively achieve the goals of the underlying litigation – compensating victims for damages resulting from discriminatory lending practices," the May 19 brief stated.

An additional 586 claimants from the Great Plains region are supporting the Keepsagles. They believe the attorneys who handled the case are no longer acting in their best interests.

"Individual Native American farmers and ranchers, not non-profits, suffered from governmental discrimination," their June 2 brief stated.

Marilyn Keepseagle is in the nation's capitol today for the 9am hearing. She will be leading a rally outside of the courthouse to call attention to the issue.

In addition to $680 million in direct payments, the settlement created an $80 million loan forgiveness fund.

Get the Story:
Battle brews anew over case of Indian money (The Sioux Falls Argus Leader 6/29)
Acrimony Develops Over $380M In Unspent Settlement Funds (The National Law Journal 6/15)

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