Washington, DC—U.S. Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD), a member of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, today commented on the announcement by the Obama Administration that it has reached an agreement to resolve the long-standing Cobell v. Salazar lawsuit. Under the settlement, a fund totaling $1.4 billion will be distributed to litigants to compensate for historical accounting claims and resolve any impending claims that prior U.S. officials mismanaged the administration of trust assets.
“The settlement announced today ends a thirteen year court battle and is an important step toward resolving the issue. I commend the efforts of all those involved, including the Plaintiffs and the Departments of Justice and Interior, in resolving this matter. I am still reviewing the proposal to determine its impact, but am hopeful that consensus has finally been reached on this issue,” said Johnson.
“While this is an important decision affecting the federal government’s trust relationship with Indian Tribes, I will continue to work to ensure that we fulfill our remaining treaty and trust responsibilities, including health care, housing and education,” Johnson concluded.
Cobell v. Salazar, which was titled Cobell v. Babbitt when the case originated in 1996, was filed on behalf of more than 300,000 Native Americans who were demanding a historical accounting of their trusts. The case is particularly important to tribes in South Dakota because the state is home to a large amount of Individual Indian Money (IIM) account holders and trust assets.
Johnson has consistently remained supportive of resolving this case and fought decisions by past Administrations to pay attorney fees and expenses related to the case with funds meant for tribal programs.
The proposal now moves to Congress and a federal court judge for approval. Additional information about the settlement agreement can be found online at www.cobellsettlement.com.