Legal

Informational meetings on Cobell settlement to be held nationwide

Informational meetings regarding the Cobell federal court case settlement are being held nationwide for those Native Americans who are potential beneficiaries of the $3.4 billion settlement recently reached. Meetings have started in tribal communities in California, and are planned for other states, but Oklahoma meetings have been finalized as of mid-February.

A Web site regarding the historic settlement has been established online at www.indiantrust.com where beneficiaries and potential beneficiaries can view information on how to participate in the court case settlement and see a list of confirmed informational meeting locations and times.

The 14-year-old class-action lawsuit (filed by Blackfeet tribal member Elouise Cobell) sought repayment from the federal government for years of mismanaged monies intended for individual Indian trust accounts. A $3.4 billion settlement was reached by the U.S. Congress last year and was signed by President Barack Obama. The notification process to reach more than 500,000 individual Indian trust account holders is now taking place.

The indiantrust.com Web site lists informational meetings that have been confirmed. As of Feb. 14, a meeting has yet to be announced in Northeast Oklahoma where the Osage Nation and several other federally-recognized tribes are based.

The Osage News inquired with indiantrust.com as to when an informational meeting could be held in the Osage Nation vicinity and was referred to an independent legal notice firm. Washington, D.C.-based Kinsella Media, LLC told the Osage News on Feb. 8 that an informational meeting is tentatively planned for mid-March in the Osage Nation’s region.

The federal Department of the Interior has started an extensive media campaign to notify individual Indian trust account holders. By late January, Indian trust account holders began receiving notification paperwork regarding the Cobell settlement via mail. 

The informational meetings being planned nationwide are intended for Indian trust account holders who have questions and to inform those beneficiaries of their rights and options regarding the settlement. Class counsel authorized to speak on behalf of the case will run these meetings.

According to indiantrust.com, there are two classes of individual Indian account holders who are eligible for a settlement payment:

·      Historical Accounting Class: for people who had an individual Indian Money (IIM) account open anytime between Oct. 25, 1994 and Sept. 30, 2009 and had at least one cash transaction conducted.

·      Trust Administration Class: for people who had an IIM account in currently available data in the federal government system anytime from 1985 to Sept. 30, 2009 or owned trust land or land in restricted status as of Sept. 30, 2009.

For more details and information on the Cobell settlement, people may call (800) 961-6109. Those who believe they are beneficiaries and have not received a notification regarding the Cobell settlement in the mail are encouraged to visit indiantrust.com or call the 800-number to register.