Cobell scholarship fund now boasts nearly $30M from settlement

Elouise Cobell and Barack Obama
The late Elouise Cobell meets President Barack Obama at the White House. December 8, 2010. Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

The Interior Department just transferred another $10 million into the scholarship fund that was created by the $3.4 billion settlement to the Cobell trust fund lawsuit.

The fund now boasts a balance of nearly $30 million. The first scholarships -- totaling about $2 million -- are going out over the next several month to students representing more than 80 tribes, DOI said.

“I am thrilled that the first Cobell scholarships have been awarded. Graduating from college and law school was life changing for me, and wouldn't have been possible without financial support,” Solicitor Hilary Tompkins, a member of the Navajo Nation, said in a press release. “The Cobell scholarship program is key to advancing self-determination by opening doors to the next generation of leaders in Indian Country.”

The scholarship is seeded with proceeds from the Land Buy-Back Program for Tribal Nations. A portion of every purchase goes into the fund as Indian landowners are paid for their fractional interests, which are then returned to tribal governments.

The settlement allows up to $60 million to be set aside for scholarships. The board of trustees that oversees the fund, however, will manage the money in order to keep the program going for much longer.

“With the beginning of the new school year and the initial distribution of funds to recipients, we are aware now more than ever of the quality, capabilities, and talents of our tribal youth. Indian Country is not immune from the national concern about rising student debt and access to education," said Alex Pearl, a member of the Chickasaw Nation who serves as chair of the board of trustees.

The American Indian Graduate Center manages the scholarship.

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