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The Obama administration Tuesday announced a $3.4 billion settlement in a 13-year old lawsuit alleging that the Department of Interior had mismanaged Native American trust accounts The case is known by its lead plaintiff, Elouise Cobell (above). Cobell had charged in 1996 that the Interior Department had cheated American Indians out of billions of dollars in mining, drilling and grazing revenues collected from their lands since 1887. 

“We are here today to right a past wrong,” Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said. Of the plaintiffs whom the government had battled for 13 years, he said: “They [brought] a national injustice to the attention of our country.” The settlement calls for the government to pay $1.4 billion to a group of 300,000 American Indians (about $4,670 each, minus attorneys fees) and will spend $2 billion to buy back small parcels of land now owned by a multitude of heirs so that the land can be put to use by the tribes. Cobell had sought $46 billion.

The case has been rancorous. See Yonder stories here and here. http://dailyyonder.com/speak-your-piece-fraction-justice-indian-trust-case  http://dailyyonder.com/wooden-indians-disbelief-over-smithsonians-chosen-chief “This is significantly less than the full accounting to which individual Indians are entitled,” Cobell said at the press conference, speaking after Salazar, Holder and other federal officials. “We are compelled to settle now by the sobering realization that our class grows smaller” as older members have died, she said. 

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