News

    US Settles Historic Native American Lawsuit

    US government says it has settled a long-running lawsuit against the Department of the Interior for mismanagement of trust fund accounts held by hundreds of thousands of Native Americans.

    The U.S. government says it has settled a long-running lawsuit against the Department of the Interior for mismanagement of trust fund accounts held by hundreds of thousands of Native Americans.  The settlement ends a 13-year legal battle to resolve a dispute that dates back to the late-1800s.

    The legal settlement will cost the U.S. government $3.4 billion.

    The agreement ends the case brought by Native American tribes charging that the Interior Department had swindled hundreds of thousands of Indians out of royalties for leasing their lands to mining, timber and energy interests.

    Announcement of the settlement came at a news conference here in Washington by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, who said it was time for the government to "right a past wrong".

    "It is a historic day for the United States of America.  It is a historic day for the first Americans of these United States," he said.

    Under the terms of the agreement, more than $1.4 billion will be distributed to more than 300,000 Native Americans to compensate them for royalty claims.  Another $2 billion will be used to buy back and consolidate tribal lands lost by previous generations.

    The lead plaintiff in the suit filed in 1996 is Elouise Cobell, a member of the Blackfeet Indian tribe in the western state of Montana.

    Cobell told the news conference that even though some plaintiffs wanted to hold out for more money from the government, it was time to bring the dispute to an end.

    "Yes, we could prolong our struggle and fight longer.  But we are compelled to settle now by the sobering realization that our class [the number of plaintiffs] grows smaller each year, each month, and every day as our elders die and are forever prevented from receiving their just compensation," she said.

    Cobell also said there was growing pressure to reach a settlement because so many Native Americans live in poverty.

    "We also face the uncomfortable, but unavoidable, fact that a large number of our individual Indian money account holders currently exist in poverty," she said.  "And the settlement can begin to address that extreme situation and provide some hope and a better quality of life for their remaining years," Cobell said.

    The case dates back to 1887, when the government carved up Indian reservation lands into smaller parcels and allotted them to individual Indians.

    It has been the Interior Department's responsibility to manage various activities on the land, including mineral mining, oil and gas drilling, and timber harvesting, and then pay the Indians royalties for those activities.  But Cobell and the other plaintiffs charged that the Interior Department had mishandled the revenues for more than a century.

    President Barack Obama issued a statement hailing the agreement as an important step toward reconciliation between Indian trust beneficiaries and the federal government.  The agreement still must be approved by a federal court and by Congress, which must vote to allocate the money needed to fund the settlement.


    Jim Malone

    Jim Malone has served as VOA’s National correspondent covering U.S. elections and politics since 1995. Prior to that he was a VOA congressional correspondent and served as VOA’s East Africa Correspondent from 1986 to 1990. Jim began his VOA career with the English to Africa Service in 1983.

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroadi
    X
    May 02, 2016 1:36 PM
    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With the conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, between the rebel PKK and the Turkish state, many Kurds are trying to escape the turmoil by focusing on the success of their football team Amedspor in Diyarbakir. The club is increasingly becoming a symbol for Kurds, not only in Diyarbakir but beyond. Dorian Jones reports from southeast Turkey.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora