Wednesday, April 11, 2012

U.S. To Pay $1 Billion To Indian Tribes

Settlement Due In Lawsuits Against Government
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today announced the settlement of lawsuits filed by 41 federally-recognized tribes against the United States, in which the tribes alleged that the Department of the Interior and the Department of the Treasury had mismanaged monetary assets and natural resources held in trust by the United States for the benefit of the tribes. 

The sum total of the settlements with the 41 tribes is approximately $1.023 billion. 

The announcement followed a 22-month-long negotiation between the tribes and the United States that has culminated in settlements between the government and tribes to resolve claims dating back more than 100 years

The historic settlement will resolve grievances over the accounting and management of tribal trust funds, trust lands and other non-monetary trust resources the tribes claimed were mismanaged by the Department of the Interior which has had jurisdiction over American Indian tribal lands and trust funds for over a century.

The Department of the Interior manages almost 56 million acres of trust lands for federally-recognized tribes and more than 100,000 leases on those lands for various uses, including housing, timber harvesting, farming, grazing, oil and gas extraction, business leasing, rights-of-way and easements. Interior also manages about 2,500 tribal trust accounts for more than 250 tribes.

Starting in the fall of 2009, lawyers for many of the tribes with litigation pending against the United States wrote to President Obama and asked the administration to engage in expedited settlement discussions with their clients. 

In April 2010, Associate Attorney General Tom Perrelli, Assistant Attorney General of the Environment and Natural Resources Division Ignacia Moreno, Interior Department Solicitor Hilary Tompkins and Treasury Department General Counsel George Madison met with attorneys for the tribes, and the parties embarked on a settlement process that the tribes termed the “Settlement Proposal to Obama Administration,” or “SPOA,” which led in part to today’s announcement.

The Departments of Justice, Interior and Treasury have been engaging in other settlement processes involving other litigating tribes. Those processes will continue for other ongoing cases.

Under the negotiated settlement agreements, litigation will end regarding the Department of the Interior’s accounting and management of the tribes’ trust accounts, trust lands and other natural resources. With monies from the congressionally-appropriated Judgment Fund, which is used to pay settlements or final judgments against the government, the United States will compensate the tribes for their breach of trust claims.

1 comment:

  1. The Native American tribes have been fighting the U.S. government for years of this issue and today they finally got some retribution. There have always been difficulties between the way the tribes operate and how the government operates. This usually clashes and leads to litigation. Litigation in these matters take a long time but at least this issue between the two parties is done.