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Timeline / Renewing Native Ways / 2009: Class action settled over mismanagement of Indian accounts, lands

2009: Class action settled over mismanagement of Indian accounts, lands

American Indian landowners and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar reach a settlement in a long-running class action lawsuit. By its terms, the federal government would create a $1.4 billion Accounting/Trust Administration Fund and a $2 billion Trust Land Consolidation Fund, as well as an Indian Education Scholarship fund of up to $60 million to improve access to higher education for Indians. The settlement is far lower than the billions of dollars that plaintiffs said American Indians were owed for the mismanagement of their land in the century since the government allotted land to individual American Indians, and Congress must still appropriate the funds to cover it.

In Cobell v. Salazar, the plaintiffs asserted that the federal government mismanaged individual Americans Indians’ trust accounts in which income from Bureau of Indian Affairs leases of American Indian–owned lands should have been deposited, and that this mismanagement contributed to the poverty of American Indians for over a century.

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Elouise Cobell shakes hands with U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. Cobell was the lead plaintiff in the groundbreaking litigation Cobell v. Salazar which challenged the U.S. government’s mismanagement of trust funds belonging to more than 500,000 Native Americans.

Courtesy Associated Press