Judge approves $940 million settlement between Federal government and Native Americans

Oglala Sioux President John Yellow Bird Steele at the settlement announcement

A judge has approved a nearly $1 billion settlement between the Obama administration and Native American tribes over claims the government shorted tribes for decades on contract costs to manage education, law enforcement and other federal services.

Attorneys for the tribes learned Wednesday that a federal judge in Albuquerque approved the agreement, about five months after the Interior Department and tribal leaders announced they had reached a proposed $940 million settlement in the class-action lawsuit…

Nearly 700 tribes or tribal agencies are expected to claim compensation, with amounts ranging from an estimated $8,000 for some Alaska Native villages and communities elsewhere to $58 million for the Navajo Nation.

Some underfunded federal contracts in the case reportedly dated back to the 1970s, when a policy change allowed tribes to gain more oversight of federal programs meant to fulfill obligations established through treaties and other agreements.

Val Panteah, governor of Zuni Pueblo, described “a financial death spiral” that came as his government tried to offset losses from the contracts in New Mexico. Other tribal leaders described trying to stem losses from the underfunded contracts with painful budget cuts as they tried to meet critical needs in their communities.

The case was first filed in 1990 by the Ramah Navajo Chapter, a community of about 4,000 that became the case’s lead plaintiff, along with the Oglala Sioux Tribe in South Dakota and Zuni Pueblo.

In 2012, the case went before the U.S. Supreme Court, which sided with the tribes and sent the case back to the lower courts before the Interior Department announced a proposed settlement in September.

Since the Supreme Court ruling, Congress has appropriated hundreds of millions of dollars to fully fund contract support costs for tribes.

The American dream of equal opportunity always seems to look around first to see if there’s some minority segment of the population that can be screwed. Unfunded mandates, underfunded mandates were made for political ideologues in Congress. Nice to see one of them overturned.

10 thoughts on “Judge approves $940 million settlement between Federal government and Native Americans

  1. Playing4Keeps says:

    “A Puget Sound shipping terminal crucial for exporting Crow Nation coal appears headed for denial this week, said U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke, R-Mont.
    Zinke said he expects the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to abort a years-long environmental study of Gateway Pacific Terminal and reject the project as Washington’s Lummi Nation requested in January 2015.
    The proposed terminal would be located near Bellingham, Wash., and traditional fishing waters of Lummi Nation, an American Indian tribe. [see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lummi ]
    Col. John G. Buck, Seattle District Commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, informed Zinke two weeks ago that a de minimis determination bypassing the environmental review process would be made on the proposed coal terminal by the end of March. That decision would likely spark a lawsuit over whether the Army Corps jumped the gun on deciding the outcome of the coal port proposal.
    …Tuesday, Zinke wrote the Defense Department’s inspector general asking that the Corps’ Seattle District, and Buck specifically, be investigated for making politically motivated decisions, a violation of military law. [ http://billingsgazette.com/rep-ryan-zinke-letter-to-department-of-defense/pdf_b9a455de-63eb-5708-88f5-7808180e1c79.html ]
    …Last year ended with Congress using a House rider to prevent the Army Corps from calling off the EIS. In response, the Lummi Tribal Business Council Chairman Tim Ballew wrote an open in The Hill [ http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/energy-environment/261737-congress-should-not-erode-treaty-rights#.Vl9FyYgPdSY.twitter ] accusing Zinke and U.S. Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., of undermining Lummi treaty rights because the lawmakers benefited from corporate coal interests.” http://billingsgazette.com/news/government-and-politics/shipping-port-that-is-critical-for-crow-coal-in-jeopardy/article_a7148cfe-5c4d-5006-b53c-3276f55dd64a.html

  2. Norteño says:

    “The United States is suing the city of Española N.M. on behalf of the Santa Clara Pueblo over miles of city sewer and water lines that are underneath the pueblo’s land.” http://www.koat.com/news/feds-sue-espaola-over-utility-lines-on-pueblo-land/39482346 “…In 1984, the city of Española made an agreement with the pueblo for thousands of dollars that would allow two right-of-way easements for water and sewer lines on the pueblo’s land. According to court documents, the water and sewer lines are several miles long. But that agreement with the pueblo expired over a decade ago, and the city has yet to negotiate a new agreement with the pueblo regarding the sewer and water lines. That led to a lawsuit that was filed by the United States against the city of Española last week. The lawsuit says that it would like the city to reach a new paid agreement with the pueblo or have the sewer and water lines removed.”

  3. News item says:

    “Federal Government Offers $270 Million for Fractionated Blackfeet Land : Owners have until next month to accept land buy-back offers” http://flatheadbeacon.com/2016/12/04/federal-government-offers-270-million-fractionated-blackfeet-land/ According to the Interior Department, there are more than 6,700 fractured tracts of land on the Blackfeet Reservation held by more than 8,100 people, totaling more than 812,000 acres, or about 60 percent of the reservation. The Blackfeet Reservation has the third highest amount of fractured land in the U.S.

  4. Non-Native says:

    “Asserting its role as the sovereign protector of its people, the Cherokee Nation filed an unprecedented lawsuit last year against some of the largest drug distributors in the U.S. The goal was to decrease the flow of opioids into the tribe’s district, 14 counties in northeast Oklahoma. The opioid epidemic, which President Donald Trump has called a national public health emergency, has been hard on the Cherokees.
    Last week, a federal judge found the Cherokee Nation did not have the jurisdiction to bring the lawsuit forward in the tribe’s court system, which is based in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. It’s a blow to broader efforts by tribes across Indian Country to assert sovereignty in relation to the U.S. government.
    “What’s the point of having sovereignty if you don’t exercise it,” Todd Hembree, attorney general for the Cherokee Nation, said to me shortly after filing the lawsuit. “When you come to Indian Country, and you avail yourself and you make profits and you do damage to Cherokee Nation citizens, you darn well better expect to be brought into a Cherokee Nation court.”” http://www.hcn.org/articles/indian-country-news-cherokee-nation-vs-big-pharma

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