The historic Cobell case is over as U.S. President Barack Obama signed the $3.4 billion settlement agreement Dec. 8, marking the end of the 14-year battle to obtain justice for more than 500,000 Native Americans whose Indian trust accounts were mismanaged by the Department of the Interior.
"Eloise's argument was simple: The government, as a trustee of Indian funds, should be able to account for how it handles that money," Obama said before he signed the settlement agreement. "And now, after 14 years of litigation, it's finally time to address the way that Native Americans were treated by their government. It's finally time to make things right."
As part of the settlement agreement, only those Osages who have Individual Indian Money (IIM) accounts will be included in the settlement. Those Osages who are solely headright owners/ shareholders will not. They will have to wait for the outcome of the Nation's 10-year-old case that seeks an accounting of 140 years of mismanagement of the tribe's oil royalty payments and other alleged malfeasance. The Nation is asking for a $310 million settlement in actual damages.
Obama made more remarks about Cobell.
"The bipartisan agreement finalized this month will result in payments to those affected by this case. It creates a scholarship fund to help make higher education a reality for more Native Americans. It helps put more land in the hands of tribes to manage for their members," Obama said. "After years of delay, this bill will provide a small measure of justice to Native Americans whose funds were held in trust by a government charged with looking out for them. And it represents a major step forward in my administration’s efforts to fulfill our responsibilities and strengthen our government-to-government relationship with the tribal nations."
For more information on the Cobell settlement, visit www.cobellsettlement.com or call 1-800-961-6109.