A federal district judge has given final approval to a $3.4 billion class action lawsuit settlement between the U.S. Department of Interior and hundreds of thousands of Native Americans in the historical Cobell v. Salazar Indian trust class action.
District Judge Thomas Hogan this week announced the approval of the Cobell v. Salazar settlement, which found the government mismanaged lands held in trust on behalf of Native Americans. The Cobell v. Salazar class action was originally settled in December 2009 and later approved by Congress in November 2010.
Judge Hogan’s approval of the Indian trust class action settlement will allow an estimated 500,000 Native Americans who had Individual Indian Money accounts, an interest in trust, or restricted land managed by the Interior Department to receive payments of at least $1,000 each. Parts of the American Indian class action settlement will go toward buying interest in trust lands and a scholarship fund.
“The Cobell settlement not only resolves the contentious 15-year litigation, but also honorably and responsibly turns the page on an unfortunate chapter in the Department’s history,” Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said in the statement.
In a statement from the White House, President Barack Obama said: “Resolving this dispute was a priority for my Administration, and we will engage in government-to-government consultations with tribal nations regarding the land consolidation component … to ensure that this moves ahead at an appropriate pace and in an appropriate manner.”
Class Members of the Cobell v. Salazar Indian trust settlement have 45 days after the Court’s final approval — which was granted June 20 — to submit a claim form.
There are two classes eligible to receive money from the Cobell v. Salazar settlement fund:
The Historical Accounting Class comprises individual Indians who were alive on Sept. 30, 2009, who had an open IIM account anytime between Oct. 25, 1994 and Sept. 30, 2009, and whose account had at least one cash transaction.
The Trust Administration Class comprises individual Indians alive on Sept. 30, 2009, who had an IIM account at any time from 1985 through Sept. 30, 2009, recorded in currently available electronic data in federal government systems, as well as individual Indians who, as of Sept. 30, 2009, had a recorded or demonstrable interest in land held in trust or restricted status.
Class members who received a formal notice in the mail about the Cobell v. Salazar class action settlement and who are receiving IIM account statements do not have to do anything to receive payment. Individuals who believe they should be part of the settlement but did not receive a notice in the mail or are not receiving IIM account statements need to fill out a claim form as soon as possible, available at the Indian Trust website www.IndianTrust.com or by calling toll-free 1-800-961-6109.