Montana News

Nov 26, 2012 7:26 PM by Katie Stukey (Great Falls)

US Department of Interior announces final steps on Cobell settlement

The multi-billion dollar settlement Elouise Cobell worked toward for more than a decade is now finalized, two years after it was approved by Congress.

The settlement became final on Saturday when the appeal period expired.

Cobell, who was a Browning resident, brought the lawsuit against the United States in the mid-90s, alleging years of mismanagement of Indian trust accounts.

U.S. Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar describes this as a "historic step forward in President Obama's agenda of reconciliation and empowerment for Indian Country."

Cobell was able to celebrate the settlement's passage in 2010, but she did not get to see it play out; she passed away following a battle with cancer in October 2011.

The settlement includes a $1.5 billion fund to be distributed to class members for accounting and potential trust fund and asset mismanagement claims.

The settlement also includes a $1.9 billion fund for a land consolidation program that allows for the voluntary sale of individual land interests that have "fractionated," or split among owners, over successive generations.

Up to $60 million of the $1.9 billion fund may be set aside to provide scholarships for American Indians and Alaska Natives to attend college or vocational school.

To learn more about the settlement, call 1-800-961-6109, visit IndianTrust.com, or email at info@IndianTrust.com.

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