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White House honors the late Elouise Cobell with Medal of Freedom






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

The late Elouise Cobell will be recognized at the White House next week.

Cobell, who passed away in October 2011, was the lead plaintiff in the landmark Indian trust fund lawsuit. Her efforts to hold the federal government accountable will be highlighted when she is posthumously presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom on November 22.

"The Presidential Medal of Freedom is not just our nation's highest civilian honor - it's a tribute to the idea that all of us, no matter where we come from, have the opportunity to change this country for the better," President Barack Obama said in a release on Wednesday.

Cobell, who was a member of the Blackfeet Nation, is the fourth Indian Country recipient of the award since Obama took office. Last year, it was presented posthumously to the late treaty rights advocate Billy Frank Jr.

In 2014, activist Suzan Shown Harjo, a member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma, was recognized for her leadership on repatriation, cultural preservation, sacred sites and offensive mascots.

And in 2009, Joe Medicine Crow, a historian and veteran from the Crow Nation of Montana, received the award. He passed away in April of this year.

In response to the new honor, Elouise Cobell's son, Turk, released the following statement on behalf of the Cobell family:
I am grateful to President Obama for including my mother among those chosen for this great honor.

If she were alive, I know she would say this is not an award just for me, but for all Native People.

She also would point out that without the support of the many thousands of people whose lands and money were mismanaged by the government she could not have won her lawsuit.

Her victory was truly a long and hard won struggle for those individuals and for her.

Her honor today is another acknowledgement by the president she so admired that Native Americans are an essential part of the fabric of America.

I know this day would have brought a wonderful smile to her face and a sparkle to her eyes.

The Cobell family is deeply touched by the President’s action.

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Harlan McKosato: Film pays tribute to 'warrior' Elouise Cobell (10/26)
Review: Elouise Cobell and her battle for justice in '100 Years' (10/11)
Review: 'Inspiring' documentary about Elouise Cobell's battle (09/26)
Film about Elouise Cobell's long 'fight for justice' set for fall release (09/06)
Interior Department sends more money for Cobell scholarships (07/20)
Elouise Cobell being considered for Presidential Medal of Freedom (05/05)
Sen. Tester eyes Presidential Medal of Freedom for Elouise Cobell (03/22)