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Cobell wins trust lawsuit

by: Jay Stevens

Wed Dec 09, 2009 at 16:37:17 PM MST

Congratulations to Elouise Cobell for her perseverance in a lawsuit to recoup losses from the federal government's mismanagement of tribal land accounts since the 1880s.


Under the terms of the Settlement in Cobell v. Salazar, the federal government will create a $1.412 billion Accounting/Trust Administration Fund and a $2 billion Trust Land Consolidation Fund. The Settlement also creates a federal Indian Education Scholarship fund of up to $60 million to improve access to higher education for Indian youth. The Settlement also includes a commitment by the federal government to appoint a commission that will oversee and monitor specific improvements in the Department's accounting for and management of individual Indian trust assets, going forward.

The Missoulian's Buffalo Post has links related to the story, and video of the Interior Department's announcement of the settlement.

The news of the settlement followed just a couple of weeks after the president's promise that he would raise the Indian Health Service budget by 13 percent - not nearly enough money to fully fund tribal health care services, but a welcome infusion of cash for a system in great trouble. Certainly, both the settlement and the increase in the IHS budget are policies that are the exact opposite of the Bush administration's, which stonewalled any dealing with the lawsuit, and cut funding for IHS.You have to think that Montana's late 2008 primary had a lot to do with the recent attention paid to First American interests. Without Obama's effective wooing of tribal support in the state, he might not now have paid as much attention to tribal issues as he is.

And let's not forget that Jon Tester's defeat of Conrad Burns removed a considerable roadblock to Native American interests. As part of his platform, Jon vowed to fight both to raise HIS funding and help settle the Cobell lawsuit. Who knows what role Jon played in all this; what we do know, is that Montana voters removed an obnoxious roadblock to fair restitution for federally managed tribal lands.

Elections have consequences.

Don't mistake this as giving praise to Obama and Tester for this settlement. Obama's administration is merely doing what other administrations should have, and Jon's role - whatever it was - pales in comparison to Eloise Cobell's. She's an excellent example of how dogged determination combined with a just cause can make significant change...

Jay Stevens :: Cobell wins trust lawsuit
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