Is the Cobell Settlement Another Bad Deal For Native Americans?

In a pointed editorial in Indian Country Today, Angelique EagleWoman criticizes the $3.4 billion settlement between the federal government and the Cobell lawsuit's Native American trust account plaintiffs as “a scam”.  Ms. EagleWoman is a citizen of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Dakota Oyate of the Lake Traverse Reservation in South Dakota, is an attorney licensed in Washington, D.C., Oklahoma, North Dakota and South Dakota, and teaches Civil Procedure and Native American Law at the University of Idaho.

In her critique of the Cobell settlement, she notes that the normal rules for class-action lawsuits appear not to have been followed in the case, depriving individual plaintiffs of the right to “opt-out” of the case.  This prevented individual Native Americans from pursuing their own separate legal remedies for the government’s alleged mismanagement of Native trust accounts and lands. She asserts that when the $1.4 billion allocated to trust account payments is broken down among the number of Native Americans with claims, the per-person dollar amount averages out to a mere $1,000.00 – with some plaintiffs to receive as little as $500.

Based on the above, I call the Cobell Proposed Settlement a scam. As a Dakota woman, a lawyer, and a law professor, I am appalled that the U.S. government would attempt to push this through Congress. The U.S. government has imposed the trust relationship on Indian peoples in mid-North America. Surely, the highest fiduciary duty is owed to individual Indians whose lands are managed by the U.S. At every step, the U.S. government has used its attorneys to fight this simple action asking for an accounting. Here in the latest round, Interior wants to sneak through this proposed settlement and stop the accounting, the claims for mismanagement, and the rights of those who are most at the mercy of the U.S. trust responsibility. This would be on par with the bleakest eras of U.S. Indian policy such as removal, assimilation and termination. We need the eagle whistle-blowers to come forth in Indian country to stop this great wrong from being perpetrated by the U.S. government. – Angelique EagleWoman

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Comments (7) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
merlin j. limpy sr. - May 26, 2010 12:33 PM

yeah i would say stop the cobell settlement deal it should be up to the members of each tribe the people they each tribal member should be able to vote on this cobell settlement every tribal president of every tribe should speak up and call for a special vote for all tribal members of every tribe the 3.4 billion dollars is not enough they should at least ask for half i hear its in the 100's of billions of dollars the u.s goverment really don't want to talk about or say how much the real figure is on what is really owed to the american indian

Hanhe`pi To`ka Eta` Kte - June 11, 2010 8:22 PM

If the Cobell settelment go's through the Native people should sue Louise and her legal attorneys. The Treaty's are a huge important part of this class action suit. Also this is another U.S. form of ethnic cleansing of full-blood people and our treary rights. The full-blood Natives are the only one's with Treaty rights. (FACT) which have nothing to do with I.R.A.tribal membership of 1934.
Full-Blood Headman Oglala Lakola

teri - August 5, 2010 8:34 PM

To all who criticize eloise cobell I say what have you done for native people lately? Everyone is jumping on the bandwagon and putting in their 2cents, well guess what we or I don't care. Eloise cobell has a backbone and did something.

margie eder - November 17, 2010 5:57 AM

I am an enrolled federally recognized tribal member from Montana. I will not accept their settlement. It is an insult to my family and all that have passed on before me in my family. I pray that this settlement be stopped and it will be. If it takes another 14 years to make it right, then so be it. I am neither that hard up to accept such a pitiful offer, nor that dumb.

leslie twobear - February 21, 2011 9:35 PM

STOP THIS CONDEMNATION OF MISS COBELL NOW!!..AS a diminished native american..and a winkte to boot....i am not nor amused...what we really need IS TO WRITE OR ATTEND THE APRIL 20 TH..''speak'' day..or write in efforts to become reality...as is.there is a chance to barely get heard..to make any chgnges could ''shelve'' the entire deal...maybe??...the only thing i feel is the absurdity to lump 2 billion $$ to buy back our small land increments..by letting the very ''alleged dept of intrior/bia-- to receive 2billion???...that should be instead given out to the iim accnt holders..FLAT OUT...INCREASING YOUR 500-1000$ PITTANCE..to maybe 5-10,000.00$$--soooo much better...than not enough to pay for a car repair!! ...pleeze acknowledge..leslie twobear.

leslie twobear - April 26, 2011 4:56 PM

TA DAAAAAH..april 20,has come and gone..THE RESULT IS AMUSING..I SEE THAT THE various indians are starting to see the TRUTH to what seemed like a HOPE....the BOWL OF FRUIT has turned to A BOWL OF TURDS..i knew something was STINKY..when i asked QUESTIONS ABOUT ''OPTING OUT''...AND EXACTLY WHAT $$$'S are to come???..and of course..its the ol' BAIT AND SWITCH''...with all fo the vile and rancid MONEY GRAB GAMES BY LAWYERS....yes....its another ''fools road to nowhere''....however...to give the ''excited indian''...a little hope...there is a FORMULA....to the figures of so called ''errors ane injustices to your accounts of 100+yrs. and its a RAGING PITTANCE...yrly lease total X5=your big joke dollars...yes..its pathetic..the ''victims'' are really FOOLANTS''..NOT CLAIMANTS..the typical pathetic accnt barely gets enough to make any difference at all...but,if your already a BIG ACCOUNT..well thats more for you..but it simply shows more greed and another farce for the INDIAN....perhaps this will simply pass...and we all quickly forget about it..thats better..take care..LESLIE TWOBEAR

LESLIE TWOBEAR - July 11, 2011 10:55 AM

THE BIG cobell settlement GOES FORWARD----and i must say---im amazed..and impressed---goes to show that if the president gets involved --it helps...nevertheless its something---and who knows how the rest will go----NOW MY FOCUS WILL BE ON THE chicanery,,,BACKROOM DEALS,AND HIDEOUS FEDERAL RACKETEERING THATS GOING ON---maybe---thats a big antic--but after reading several opinion comments by JEFFREY WHALEN (OGLALA SIOUX) YOU MAY AGREE---its definitely an interesting read..and btw--is anyone reading this? hahahha--

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