The $3.4 billion Cobell settlement that would reimburse Native American landowners for decades of mismanaged individual trust accounts could be back on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives shortly after Congress' Thanksgiving recess, much to the chagrin of Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Chairman Joseph Brings Plenty.

The outgoing chairman opposes the much-delayed, controversial settlement, which the Senate approved Friday after numerous failures to do so, and says it is an insult to the traditions and culture of his tribe. Under Brings Plenty's leadership, the Cheyenne River tribe approved a resolution opposing the settlement earlier this year. The House has already passed two earlier bills approving the negotiated class action settlement initiated by Elouise Cobell and other Blackfeet account holders nearly 15 years ago. House Majority Leader Rep. Steny Hoyer has promised to bring the Cobell legislation to a vote shortly after the House returns Nov. 29.

Cobell and the settlement's supporters argue that the $3.4 billion reimbursement is a "small measure of justice to Native Americans victimized by the government-run individual Indian trust."

To Brings Plenty, "small" is the operative word.

"It's not really fair, as far as the settlement is concerned, if you calculate what they should be getting paid," Brings Plenty said. "It's dangling some funds in front of individuals who are living in a poverty-stricken area. Of course it's going to be appealing."

The complicated settlement would compensate more than 300,000 Native Americans to varying degrees for monies lost because of the Interior Department's mismanagement of individual Indian money accounts since 1887, for things such as oil, gas, grazing and timber rights. It also contains federal funding to consolidate small fractionated parcels of trust land under tribal ownership and sets up educational scholarship funding as an incentive to do that.

All of South Dakota's congressional delegation supports the Cobell settlement.

Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin called the agreement "a major step forward in resolving this nearly 15-year-long lawsuit."

"This agreement will set in motion important reforms to protect promises made to individual Indian landowners and will ensure that the federal government will fulfill those promises. I hope that as the agreement moves forward, individual Indian account holders will be consulted and kept informed about their options and how the agreement will affect them personally."

Brings Plenty acknowledges that public sentiment in his own reservation community is split over support for the settlement. "There's two different ways of looking at this," he said.

He rejects the financial argument that says ‘something is better than nothing.'

"Give those individuals what it's really worth. Yes, it's expensive for taxpayers, but it didn't come cheap to our people, either," Brings Plenty said.

The Senate legislation is "revenue neutral," which satisfied complaints that the spending be offset to cover the $4.6 billion costs of settling long-standing claims of $3.4 billion in the Cobell suit and another $1.2 billion for black farmers who brought claims against the Agriculture Department for discrimination.

Brings Plenty favors taking a stand against the assimilation that he believes Cobell represents.

"The Cobell settlement is part of that," he said. "It's a piece of that assimilation equation. As far as I'm concerned, I don't think any amount of money would ever make right what was done wrong back then."

Katharine Many Hides of the Blackfeet Nation disagrees.

"My husband is full blood Blackfeet, and yes, he and I want to see this settled. We know it's not what is actually the amount that the Native Americans are entitled to, but it's something. It's time to put this to bed and move on. This government is not going to give back what is a fair amount, so why delay this any longer?" Many Hides said.

(16) comments

tipimakr
tipimakr

If a person owes a debt to a financial institution, no matter how long it takes to pay off that debt, the debt continues to collect interest. And so it is with the U.S. Government who owes America's Indigenous Nations. There will never be any amount of money the U.S. could ever raise to pay off what they have done to us.
We should never ever "settle" on any amount of their dollars just so they will sleep better at night, which I am sure they do anyway since this is their culture.
Our Tribal Council (Standing Rock) is taking the easy way out, they said they are leaving this up to the People, knowing darn well that most of our People are destitute and they will spend any money they get...
The President should know better. I think he listens to others who are talking in his ears too much.

maryleejohns
maryleejohns

The Cobell Agreement allows the U.S. Government to "wipe the slate clean" regarding the mismanagement of land held in trust for individual Indian people. This would be the same if a bank was the trustee of a large amount of money for several people and one day, because of an agreement made with one of these, gave that individual millions of dollars because she was willing to make the agreement - and although it owed the others large amounts of money – the person agreed to allowing the bank to them only $500. Plus the bank agreed to pay the attorneys millions just because they worked with the bank to come up with the deal. If you look at it from this angle anyone can understand why so many of us oppose this action.

However, there is an even more egregious part of this agreement. It includes the mismanagement of the land. Once the U.S. wipes away their own criminal behavior regarding this mismanagement we as land owners will be left with over grazed, over used, resource poor lands that was allowed to get into this condition because of government officials who turned a blind eye to resource developer who were literally stealing the resources of individuals this includes oil, gas, and other resources. The U.S. is wiping away billions of claims from people whose lands were under the care of the U.S. There are cases were unscrupulous companies siphoned of oil from lands owned by very poor people. Did the U.S. assure that they received payment for this? What do you think? We know this did not happen and why many of us have issues with this agreement

The agreement was done at the 11th hour so the Cobell Team could collect their millions and leave crumbs to those of us who have valid claims against this government for what they allowed to happen to our land. But Congress has joined the Administration in approving the Agreement because it let them off the hook and the Cobell Team will collect their millions for making a deal that benefits only them.

WicazoTanka
WicazoTanka

Junk, you think a little to closed-minded. The people I know appreciate a $20 from me and know that a relative helps them when he/she can. $10K from Uncle Sam will do nothing to alleviate the everyday conditions of any would-be unci with a $5000 Buick, a nice run to Wal-mart, when in a month her condition will be no better. The warrior way you speak of is one that requires humility and not breaking your arm patting yourself on the back waktoglaka. Others tell your deeds and a man/warrior just does and gramma says, "Pilamaya." Sitting Bull (I believe) said, "Who would sell their mother for a piece of fat bacon and hard tack?" I could spend $10k in a minute, but could not live with selling out our relatives. A wrong can't be made right with money, especially something not equivalent to a drop of water in say the ocean, or better yet, Canyon Lake in RC. Also, Cobell has 300k litigants that are not all necessarily Lakota. Black Hills Land Claim has about $900 million in it, but is separate from Cobell. Same fat bacon and hard tack amount for L/N/Dakota people. A drop in the bucket for your soul as a L/N/Dakota.

Magaska
Magaska

RE: Junkyard Dog ...Before you get all wound up! The average person would 500.00 to 800.00 bucks (no Pun Intended) give or take. The attorneys will get the majority of the money (Millions each) Do your research. If we receive this money and when its gone ..We will have nothing left and be back in the same rut! But without any Leverage! Then our Culture will die out! They want this to happen!..As for the poor Unci on the Rez. My group "United Urban Warrior Society" does everything we can to help. We have weekly meals and by the way: come and see us Thursday afternoon at about 2:00PM, We are have a big Dinner and Traditional "Lakota" entertainment for our Homeless Brothers and Sisters...638 E. BLVD North Rapid City...Bring a dish.

James (Magaska) Swan

Human
Human

Neyyyyyohh. Junkyard dog. I lived here all my life but 4 years. Seens Unci's stand the strongest against the erosion of land. Seen alot of young men and woman who want to go to wal-mart and the R.C. Mall want settlement money.

Junkyard Dog
Junkyard Dog

Thats great that you all want to be the next Means and Banks. But come down to the rez and tell some little poor Unci trying to keep her house warm and food on her table that she should hold out for more. Or better yet why don't you all come down and help these unfortunate ones while they wait twenty more years for a larger settlement. Don't trample each other trying to be the first one down her.

WicazoTanka
WicazoTanka

How much is integrity worth? How much is your soul worth? What are the lives and efforts of the people who fought and died to preserve a homeland for we Lakota of this State of South Dakota? If you take the $3.4 billion and divide it by 300,000 litigants/named parties in the suit, you get $11,333 per person. Take the amount of gold Homestake took out of the Black Hills, some 28 million troy ounces (today's value $1,352, or $37.856 billion). $3.4 is over 11 times less than the gold in the stolen Black Hills. Chump change for your soul.

wildindian
wildindian

In some sense, opposing this is quite acceptable simple due to the ridiculous land value estimated by the white people using united states governmental laws and policies to steal unceded indian land. Also, the American Indian Movement stealing the IIM account papers during the BIA takeover is now realized as not a spontanous action by indian activists but by very well paid and governmentally directed ex-convicts seeking to stay out of prison. 3.4 billion was a great amount back in 1820 but in todays economics? It is more of an embarrassment to realize 3.4 billion is nothing. The value of the loss of indian in unceded indian lands and IIM account fraud is more in the general neighborhood of 3-7 trillion dollars. The blackfeet want 1 million? Do we sell out the integrity of our ancestors so the white people can bury this outright land theft and treaty under political tricks. This needs to be assessed on a broader basis then thru 1 or 12 individuals with a private claim.

Magaska
Magaska

Right on Human!...Very well said...We did not want this...and the United States did not defeat us in War..(3o-years) it was “disease and starvation” that made our people finally fall...and we are still here...Hoka Hey! And are still fighting for our land and our rights…and will continue to do so…

jacie
jacie

"..let them sell their land.." WMDMIA Are you speaking of allotted land? Fee patent land? What about fractionation? Domestic dependant nation/Sovereignty? The Dawes Act? Who are you speaking of when you say let 'THEM' sell their land? The tribes never wanted anything but to be left alone; history has shown what Manifest Destiny did to that concept.

Human
Human

WMDMIA, it's about time. total autonomy, restoration of stolen land/property, final say over our own destiny, wow. people are starting to get it. We did not want to be part of America to begin with, yet we were pursued till the death in most cases and corralled on the reservations, when all we wanted was to be left alone. Thanks WMDMIA, thank you.

WMDMIA
WMDMIA

I say let the tribes do what they want, let them sell their land, manage it without government interference. Give them total control with the understanding that the government will end it’s support. Time to let the tribes go their own way. If they want to be separate from the rest of the people of this nation then so be it.

Human
Human

It's about the land. What good is money when there is no land. good on you Chairman Brings Plenty. aho.

And dangling some funds in a poverty-stricken area is a bad thing? What does Brings Plenty want anyway? Does he really think the Government has the means to turn the entire tribe into millionaires overnight. The Government is attempting to help these people so they can get on their feet yet ya got some clown that wants the Government to stay around and hold them up the entire time without any effort on their end whatsoever.

Here's an idea....how about being like most everyone else (including other Tribes) and take advantage of what help you do get and help yourselves instead of relying on someone else to get you through life.

Some days I really wonder about our people.

Better take what you can get because if it hasn't been voted on before the end of the year, the Republicans are not as likely to approve this.

Magaska
Magaska

As an Enrolled member of Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe...I support my tribes decision on this...This story fails to mention exactly how much each Native would receive "after Taxes" and how much the attorneys will receive for this...what a rip off and insult to our people...

Nelag T
Nelag T

more, more, more...I'd like to see some real numbers that the tribes have been using to determine the final amount. Such as ## acres at $$/acre times ## percent over ## years. Sounds to me like the feds are giving the tribe a free steak but they want lobster.

Their greed is becoming counter-productive, as 3.4 billion is more likely to become zero before it becomes 10 billion.

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