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Osage Nation receives $960,000 in class action settlement

The Osage Nation received $960,700.17 in a settlement as part of a class-action lawsuit against the Bureau of Indian Affairs in which hundreds of tribes and tribal organizations will receive settlement shares for unpaid contract support costs.

The settlement in the case Ramah Navajo Chapter, et al. v. Jewell is the conclusion of a 25-year legal dispute resulting in a total settlement of $940 million that is being divided among 699 tribes and tribal entities across the country, according to the case fact sheet. The settlement became final on April 25 and will also include an additional $7.9 million in accrued post-judgment interest from Feb. 23 when a federal court ruling was issued approving the proposed settlement.

On Oct. 18, the Nation said its share of the settlement money was deposited into the tribe’s general fund earlier in the week and its use is yet to be determined.     

“During the past year, the case settlement discussions moved quickly and my office was kept well informed,” said Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear in a prepared release. “After I received all necessary documents, our general counsel Terry Mason Moore reviewed them and approved for my signature.”

In a June 2016 interview with The Oklahoman, Tulsa-based attorney Michael McBride III, whose focus is Indian law and gaming, said the Ramah Navajo Chapter, et al. case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2012. “The case involved the federal government shortchanging tribes for decades on various contract support costs used to manage education, law enforcement, social services and other services undertaken by tribes pursuant to self-governance compacts with the federal government. President Barack Obama’s administration and nearly 700 Indian tribes or tribal agencies entered into settlement discussions that culminated in the historic settlement in October 2015,” he said.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the settlement addresses “claims that the government contracted with tribes and tribal agencies to run (BIA) programs like law enforcement, forest management, fire suppression, road maintenance, housing, federal education and other support programs, but failed to appropriate sufficient funds to pay the costs under the agreements.”

The Department of Interior website states: “In the early 1970s, Congress passed (Public Law 93-638) that allowed Indian tribes and tribal organizations to acquire increased control over the management of federal programs that impact their members, resources and governments. These agreements are referred to as ‘638 compacts and contracts.’”

Contracts and compacts are very similar. Self-Determination contracts are authorized under the 1975 Indian Self Determination and Education Assistance Act. Self-Governance compacts are made possible by 1994 amendments to the (original 1975 Act).

The Justice Department said “claims arose because of a mismatch between federal self-determination laws and available appropriations. While the federal government has signed contracts that provided for certain amounts to cover administrative costs of implementing contracts – such as workers’ compensation costs for tribal employees – Congress capped appropriated funds available to pay for these costs. This funding gap was one of the sources of the claims, which were raised in a class action lawsuit filed in 1990.”

An information website on the Ramah Navajo Chapter et. al. settlement is online at: www.rncsettlement.com


By

Benny Polacca


Original Publish Date: 2016-10-26 00:00:00

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Benny Polaccahttps://osagenews.org
Benny Polacca started at the Osage News in 2009 as a reporter and has covered various stories and events impacting the Osage Nation and Osage people. Polacca is part of the News team awarded the Native American Journalist Association’s Elias Boudinot Free Press Award in 2014 and other NAJA Media Awards and SPJ Oklahoma Pro Chapter awards for news coverage and photography. Polacca is an Arizona State University graduate and participated in the former American Indian Journalism Institute at the University of South Dakota. He previously worked at The Forum newspaper covering the Fargo, N.D. region as the weeknight reporter.
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