The US government has agreed to pay more than $1billion to 41 Native American tribes, settling a long-running series of lawsuits focused on federal mismanagement of land and natural resources belonging to Tribal communities. This settlement is separate from the $3.4 billion Cobell settlement to compensate individual Native Americans for federal mismangement of trust assets.
The Tribal land claims dated back more than 100 years, when tribal land was given to white-owned companies under the provisions of the Dawes Act. The Department of the Interior manages nearly 56m acres of tribal trust lands and more than 100,000 leases covering land uses such as housing, farming and oil extraction. The claimants argued that the government did not compensate the tribes sufficiently for using their land.
"These settlements fairly and honorably resolve historical grievances over the accounting and management of tribal trust funds... that, for far too long, have been a source of conflict between Indian tribes and the United States," Attorney General Eric Holder said.
The settlements would help tribal governments improve infrastructure and healthcare after decades of inadequate funding, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe chairman Gary Hayes told the AP news agency.
In a statement, the US government described the settlement agreement as "a significant milestone in the improvement of the United States' relationship with Indian tribes".