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.