US: $3B to end royalty dispute with Indian tribes

12/09/2009 07:08 AM

By Matthew DalyAssociated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration on Tuesday proposed spending more than $3 billion to settle claims dating back more than a century that American Indian tribes were swindled out of royalties for oil, gas, grazing and other leases.

Under an agreement announced Tuesday, the Interior Department would distribute $1.4 billion to more than 300,000 Indian tribe members to compensate them for historical accounting claims, and to resolve future claims. The government also would spend $2 billion to buy back and consolidate tribal land broken up in previous generations. The program would allow individual tribe members to obtain cash payments for land interests divided among numerous family members and return the land to tribal control.

The settlement also would create a scholarship account of up to $60 million for tribal members to attend college or vocational school.

If cleared by Congress and a federal judge, the settlement would be the largest Indian claim ever approved against the U.S. government — exceeding the combined total of all previous settlements of Indian claims.

Last year, a federal judge ruled that the Indian plaintiffs are entitled to $455 million, a fraction of the $47 billion or more the tribes have said they are owed for leases that have been overseen by the Interior Department since 1887.

President Barack Obama said settlement of the case, known as Cobell v. Salazar, was an important step to reconcile decades of acrimony between Indian tribes and the federal government.

"As a candidate, I heard from many in Indian Country that the Cobell suit remained a stain on the nation-to-nation relationship I value so much," Obama said Tuesday in a written statement. "I pledged my commitment to resolving this issue, and I am proud that my administration has taken this step today."

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar called settlement of the 13-year-old case a top priority for him and Obama and said the administration worked for many months to reach a settlement that is both honorable and responsible.

"This historic step will allow Interior to move forward and address the educational, law enforcement, and economic development challenges we face in Indian Country," Salazar said.

Elouise Cobell, a member of the Blackfeet Tribe from Montana who was the lead plaintiff in the case, called the proposed settlement crucial for hundreds of thousand of Native Americans who have suffered for more than a century through mismanagement of the Indian trust.

"Today is a monumental day for all of the people in Indian Country that have waited so long for justice," said Cobell, who appeared at a news conference Tuesday with Salazar, Attorney General Eric Holder and other U.S. officials.

"Did we get all the money that was due us? Probably not," Cobell said, but added: "There's too many individual Indian beneficiaries that are dying every single day without their money."

The proposed settlement affects tribes across the country, including virtually every recognized tribe west of the Mississippi River. Tribes in North Dakota, South Dakota, Oklahoma and Montana are especially affected by the breakup of Indian land into small parcels, said Keith Harper, a lawyer who represents the plaintiffs.

The settlement would give every Indian tribe member with an Interior Department account an immediate check for $1,000, with additional payments to be determined later under a complicated formula that takes into account a variety of factors. Many tribe members also would receive payments for parcels of land that are held in some cases by up to 100 family members, in an effort to consolidate tribal land and make it more useful and easier to manage.

The settlement does not include a formal apology for any wrongdoing by the U.S. government, but does contain language in which U.S. officials acknowledge a "breach of trust" on Indian land issues.

An apology "would have been nice," Cobell said, but was less important than settling the dispute. "Actions are more important to me than apologies," she said.


06/29/2015 12:33 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation’s Election Commission certified voting results from the June 27 general election during a special meeting on June 29. Winners for the eight races in which a victor was declared are: • Bill John Baker, principal chief, • S. Joe Crittenden, deputy chief, • Rex Jordan, Dist. 1, • David Walkingstick, Dist. 3, • Shawn Crittenden, Dist. 8, • Dick Lay, Dist. 12, • Buel Anglen, Dist. 13, and • William “Bill” Pearson, Dist. 14 There will be two run-off elections slated for July 25. In the Dist. 6 Tribal Council race, Natalie Fullbright will face Bryan Warner. In the At-Large Tribal Council race, Wanda Claphan Hatfield will face Betsy Swimmer. The EC will mail runoff absentee ballots July 13-14. Voters interested in early walk-in voting can do so from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on July 18 and July 21- 23 at the Election Services Office in Tahlequah. Election day voting will be held from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at precincts inside the tribe’s jurisdiction. The EC election timeline states the recount request deadline was 5 p.m. on July 1. Recounts were scheduled for July 2-3 with Supreme Court justices in attendance. The election appeals deadline was July 6. Provided there are any appeals, the Supreme Court was expected to hear any of those cases on July 7-9. Candidates elected to office during the general and runoff elections are to be sworn in Aug. 14, according to the tribe’s election timeline. For more information on the upcoming runoff elections, call 918-458-5899. According to the EC, the June 27 election had 19,298 ballots cast out of 63,703 registered voters. <a href="" target="_blank">Click here to view</a>the official count document.
06/29/2015 01:26 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – According to the certified election results of the June 27 general election, William “Bill” Pearson beat Keith Austin by one vote to win the Tribal Council’s Dist. 14 seat. Results show that Pearson received 534 votes for 50.05 percent of the ballots, while Austin received 533 votes for 49.95 percent. The Cherokee Phoenix contacted both candidates, but neither was available for comment at the time of publication. The EC certified the results at on June 29. Candidates have until 5 p.m. on July 1 to request a recount. Recounts are scheduled for July 2-3 with Supreme Court justices in attendance. The election appeals deadline is July 6. Provided there are any appeals, the Supreme Court will hear those cases July 7-9. Candidates who are elected to office during the general and runoff elections are expected to be sworn in Aug. 14, according to the tribe’s election timeline. The runoff election is set for July 25.
06/29/2015 01:18 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – According to certified election results, former Tribal Councilor Buel Anglen will return to the Tribal Council to fill the Dist. 13 seat. Anglen, who previously served as Tribal Councilor from 2002-13, won the race with 63.67 percent of the votes at 517 votes. His opponent, Kenneth Holloway, had 36.33 percent or 295 votes. Election Commission officials returned to the Election Services Office on June 28 to count challenged ballots and included them in the final unofficial results. The EC certified the results on June 29. Anglen said, to be safe, he would wait until the challenged ballots were counted before commenting. He could not be reached at the time of publication. Holloway, who conceded the race around 9 a.m. on June 28, congratulated Anglen and offered his support and prayers as Anglen moves into office. He also thanked his supporters. “I want to thank God first and foremost, then my wife who is my biggest supporter and kept me going, my family and everyone who believed in me on this journey to become Dist. 13’s Tribal Councilor,” he said. Dist. 13 covers most of the northeast Tulsa County and part of western Rogers County. Inauguration day for elected officials is set for Aug. 14, according to the Cherokee Nation’s election timeline.
Senior Reporter
06/29/2015 01:13 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Dist. 12 Tribal Councilor Dick Lay has retained his seat during the 2015 general election, according to certified election results from the Cherokee Nation’s Election Commission. Results show Lay, of Ochelata, received 61.18 percent of the votes with 446 ballots, while his opponent, Dora Smith Patzkowski, received 38.82 percent of the votes with 283 ballots. Lay is expected to begin serving his second term on Aug. 14, the day when tribal elected officials are inaugurated. “Feeling very humble, grateful and thankful today,” Lay said. “Thanks to my wife and family they have allowed me the time to have the privilege to serve the Cherokee people. Thanks to all of our family, friends, and supporters who made it happen. Old friends and new worked hard to get it done. God bless you all and God bless the Cherokee Nation.” Patzkowski, of Bartlesville, could not be reached for comment before publication but said in an earlier statement her top legislative priority for the Dist. 12 was to improve health care and housing for CN citizens. Dist. 12 includes Washington County and part of Tulsa, Rogers and Nowata counties. The EC certified the general election results on June 29.
06/29/2015 01:03 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – According to certified results, Natalie Fullbright and Bryan Warner will face each other in the July 25 runoff election for the Cherokee Nation’s Dist. 6 Tribal Council seat. According to certified results of the June 27 general election, Fullbright received 44.11 percent of the votes with 618, while Warner garnered 35.76 percent with 501 votes. The Cherokee Phoenix attempted to contact Fullbright but was unsuccessful. Warner said he is “proud and humbled” to be in a runoff race for Dist. 6. He added that it has been hard work to get to where he’s at and he will continue to work hard for the seat. “We plan on continuing to work hard, I think it’s important as a potential council member to work hard,” he said. “Then if you’re left to be elected, that’s when the real work starts.” He also extended his appreciation to all of the CN citizens who cast their votes for him. “One thing like I’ve always told all of them is it’s a group effort, and I feel like I want them to be part of this process because if I’m elected I’ll continue to inform and have the citizens be aware of everything, use their ideas with mine to do the best job possible,” he said. Dist. 6 covers the eastern part of Sequoyah County. Brian Keith McCoy came in third with 11.85 percent or 166 votes, and Ron Goff came in fourth with 8.28 percent or 116 votes. Runoff absentee ballots will be mailed out on July 13-14. The EC met on June 29 to certify the results from the general election. Candidates who are successful in their races are set to be sworn into office on Aug. 14.
Phoenix Intern
06/29/2015 01:01 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Incumbent David Walkingstick defeated four challengers for the Cherokee Nation’s Dist. 3 Tribal Council seat in the June 27 general election. Walkingstick garnered 686 votes for 54.1 percent of the total ballots cast, according to the Cherokee Nation Election Commission's certified results. Those results also listed Kathy Poor Kilpatrick as Walkingstick’s closest competitor at 25.16 percent with 319 votes, while Larry Pritchett finished third at 12.22 percent with 155 votes. Brian Berry followed at 7.33 percent with 93 votes, and Brandon Girty rounded out the candidates at 1.18 percent with 15 votes. “It feels really humbling that people have confidence in my leadership, but I also have a lot of respect for the other candidates,” Walkingstick said. “It’s exciting to see qualified candidates come out and want to be a part of these exciting times for the Cherokee Nation.” Walkingstick indicated the campaign was hard won, but beneficial in terms of moving forward. “I met a lot of good people along the way and I got to see my constituents in their environments and their lifestyles,” he said. “I worked harder this time than what I did last time, and I think it was because of the potential I see that the Cherokee Nation has to help people. I care so much for the Cherokee people and I know I’m the guy that’s going to deliver.” Walkingstick said he’s already looking to get back to work, indicating a desire to continue finalizing the $60 million dollar Indian Health Service Joint Venture Construction Program project announced in January. He also said he wants to increase scholarship amounts for students, as well as seek out grants to build storm shelters and install storm sirens in rural communities. “We have so many unfinished projects that are going to not only benefit our generation, but generations to come,” he said. “I’m lucky to be elected four more years to finish out those projects. God has blessed the Cherokee Nation, and I’m honored to be a part of that.” Dist. 3 covers the southern portion of Cherokee County. The EC met on June 29 to certify the general election results. Walkingstick will be sworn into office on Aug. 14, the tribe’s inauguration day.