Native Americans waiting for nearly a year for the $3.4 billion settlement in the Cobell vs. Salazar case will have to wait a little bit longer.

U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan extended the deadline for congressional authorization in the lawsuit to Jan. 7, 2011. The U.S. Senate adjourned without giving the Obama administration the authority to settle the class-action lawsuit.

Hogan said that if Congress does not come to a settlement agreement by the deadline, the parties in the Cobell case will return to lengthy, costly litigation, according to Hogan said he is hopeful Congress will take up the settlement during the lame-duck session.

The Senate will reconvene Nov. 15. The House has approved the settlement twice since May.

The Cobell case was first filed in 1996 by Elouise Cobell of Browning, Mont., and seeks a historical accounting of billions of dollars held in trust for Native landowners.

The latest deadline, Hogan said, is “perhaps one last chance” for Congress to approve the terms of the settlement before the Cobell case returns to litigation, according to