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

BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
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.

News

BY STAFF REPORTS
10/21/2014 01:06 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Three Cherokee communities will host Halloween-related events before and during Halloween. In Marble City, citizens are hosting the “Trail of Terror” to provide a safe but scary fun for those who dare to walk the trail. This is the ninth year for the outdoor event, and it will be held one mile south of Marble City from 7:30 p.m. to 11:55 p.m. on Oct. 24-25. People should follow signs to the Noisey Ranch. Admission is $3 per person. Because the trail is outdoors, no flip-flops are allowed to prevent injuries. It will take 15 to 20 minutes to walk through the trail, which is situated in 10 acres of woods. This year, the eighth grade class at Marble City School is doing a special scene. A volunteer work crew from Haskell Indian Nations University is also assisting with the trail. This year’s big feature is a maze and a psychedelic tunnel, said coordinator Tamara Hibbard. “All the workers are volunteers. We put a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into getting it ready. We just do it for the enjoyment of the people. We never break even with admission,” she said. “Any money that we take goes back for expenses like fuel for the generator, fog juice, fake blood, props and costumes.” A free “Daisy Trail” will be available for small children that will include carnival games and non-scary stuff. For more information, call Hibbard at 918-315-2583. After trick or treating on Halloween, families are invited to the Rocky Mountain Cherokee Community Organization’s “Haunted Trail and Kiddie Carnival” from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. at the organization’s community building. All activities are free except for the concession stand. Cherokee storyteller Sequoyah Guess will be the guest storyteller. The trail and storytelling will be held behind the community building, weather permitting. Games and concession stand will be held inside. The trail will not be suitable for younger children. Carnival-type games will be set up and suitable for anyone. The Rocky Mountain Community is located off of 100 Hwy. in Adair County, about seven miles west of Stilwell. For more information, call Vicki McLemore at 918-506-0487. The Brushy Cherokee Action Association will host a “Haunted House and Trail” and a hayride from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. on Oct. 29-31 at the Brushy Community Center building. Events will last until 11:30 p.m. on Oct. 31. Cherokee Nation staff members Stephanie Buckskin and Mary Owl, along with Brushy volunteers, are building and installing the “Haunted House and Trail.” BCAAA welcomes all residents of Brushy and surrounding communities to the Halloween events. Admission is $2 per person and $10 per family. Concessions will be available. The Brushy Community Center building is located seven miles north of Sallisaw on Hwy 59 on E. 1010 Road. For more information call Gary Bolin at 918-315-7797 or Newton Spangler at 918-575-5998.
BY WILL CHAVEZ
Senior Reporter
10/21/2014 08:05 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee youth from across northeastern Oklahoma were sworn in as Tribal Youth Councilors on Oct. 13 by Cherokee Nation Supreme Court Justice Darrell Dowty. The 17 youth raised their hands and took their oaths of office during the Tribal Council meeting. The TYC will serve a one-year term and gather monthly for a meeting and activities. Activities could consist of a guest speaker, a cultural tour/activity, leadership training or community service projects. “I just think it’s fantastic that we have some up-and-coming leaders. This Youth Council is growing our leaders for the future. I’m very appreciative of the ones who agreed to serve and the staff who are helping them,” Tribal Councilor Tina Glory Jordan said. Tribal Youth Councilor from Kansas, Oklahoma Taylor Armbrister, 15, said he wants to serve on the council because he knows it will offer opportunities for him to better himself along with learning more about his Cherokee culture and heritage. “I just saw an opportunity to better myself. I look forward to doing some community service. It’s always a joy to help people in need,” he said. Along with Armbrister, the Tribal Youth Councilors are Ja-li-si Pittman, 20, of Tahlequah; Haylee Caviness, 17, of Tahlequah; Jacob Chavez, 17, of Tahlequah; Haley Teehee, 17, of Tahlequah; Kaley Teehee, 17, of Tahlequah; Morgan Mouse, 16, of Welling; Ashton Shelley, 17, of Park Hill; Summer Eubanks, 17, of Stilwell; Elizabeth Hummingbird, 17, of Stilwell; Sarah Pilcher, 16, of Westville; Cierra Fields, 15, of Fort Gibson; Blake Henson, 16, of Fort Gibson; Bradley Fields, 15, of Locust Grove; Ashlee Fox, 17, of Bartlesville; Abigail Shepherd, 15, of Ochelata; and Cassidy Henderson, 15, of Welch. The TYC was established in 1989 to provide leadership opportunities for Cherokee youth and to educate youth about the tribal government, culture, history and language. “It’s a wonderful opportunity and a true privilege to serve on the Youth Council,” Principal Chief Bill John Baker said. During the meeting, Baker presented a framed proclamation to former Tribal Youth Councilor and current TYC Coordinator Lisa Trice-Turtle and other former Tribal Youth Councilors. The proclamation honors the 25th anniversary of the council, which officially formed Oct. 14, 1989. Baker read the proclamation, which stated the program has kept “the Cherokee Nation in the forefront of youth programs.” “The Tribal Youth Council strives to promote and protect Cherokee lifeways through community service projects and leadership opportunities, it has made a difference in the lives of hundreds of youth. Now therefore, I, Bill John Baker, Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation, do hereby proclaim Tuesday, Oct. 14, 2014, as celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Cherokee Nation Tribal Youth Council,” Baker read. Trice-Turtle thanked current and past Tribal Councilors for supporting the TYC. “Some of their children and relatives are now on the Tribal Youth Council or have served on the Tribal Youth Council. We have over 161 former Tribal Youth Council members who are in professional employment for the Cherokee Nation as well as the private sector. I just want to say thank you for supporting our tribal youth programs and keep supporting us,” she said. Hummingbird said she wanted to join the council to be more involved with her nation. “I’m proud of my culture and just love to have this opportunity to learn more about my culture,” she said. She said wants to learn how the Tribal Council operates and what the council does during meetings. A Keys High School senior, Shelley said she believes it’s important for youth to be involved in their nation and to support it because the youth will someday inherit the CN. “I just want to learn everything I possibly can from our elders and just everyone involved with the council,” she said. “I believe this experience will help me go further in life in general, not just in college, but everything.”
BY STAFF REPORTS
10/20/2014 11:50 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Tahlequah Public Schools Foundation is hosting its 2014 Glow Golf Fall Event on Oct. 30 to raise funds for TPS. The event is a four-member team golf scramble with teams teeing off at dusk on the city’s course located at 2200 W. Golf Course Road. Registration for begins at 6 p.m. Sponsorship levels are diamond at $2,500; platinum at $1,000; gold at $500; team at $300 and media at $200. Most packages include four T-shirts, glow golf materials, a flashlight, dinner and drinks. According to its website, the foundation’s mission is to encourage the local community to support the TPS educational system, secure contributions and distribute funds and equipment for the students’ educational benefit. The website states the TPSF was organized in 1989 by concerned citizens who believe Tahlequah’s quality of life and economic development are directly related to the quality of its educational system. It is an independent, nonprofit, charitable organization established to assist the school in improving the quality of education in the district. The foundation is separate from TPS but works closely with the school system and administration. For more information about the golf scramble, call 918-456-3761 or 918-456-1300. Or email <a href="mailto: healthfirstchiropractic@yahoo.com">healthfirstchiropractic@yahoo.com</a>.
BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
10/17/2014 12:00 PM
WASHINGTON – On Sept. 30, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell convened the fourth meeting of the White House Council on Native American Affairs, formed by executive order of President Obama, to work more collaboratively and effectively with American Indian and Alaska Native leaders to help build and strengthen their communities. Obama Cabinet secretaries and senior officials participated in discussions focused on several core objectives including reforming the Bureau of Indian Education, promoting sustainable tribal economic development, and supporting sustainable management of Native lands, environments and natural resources. The discussion also included potential additional areas of focus based on consultation with tribal leaders. The meeting follows the president’s June visit to the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota where he announced new initiatives to expand educational and economic opportunities, which the council oversees and promotes, and Jewell’s 20th visit to Indian Country, where she joined Navajo Nation leaders to announce a $554 million settlement of the tribe’s trust accounting and management lawsuit. Since 2009, this administration has resolved more than 80 tribal trust settlements with federal-recognized tribes, providing more than $2.5 billion in settlements, in addition to the $3.4 billion Cobell settlement of individual Indian trust claims. “The landmark Cobell Settlement and resolution of more than 80 other individual tribal trust management lawsuits under President Obama has launched a new chapter in federal trust relations with tribes, reflecting this administration’s continued commitment to strengthening our government-to-government relationship with tribal leaders,” Jewell said. “Today’s meeting of the council is another step toward building upon that relationship by working to better coordinate the resources of the federal government so that tribal nations can more easily cut through red tape and access the tools they need to advance their economic and social goals.” The council’s subgroup on Indian education highlighted progress to date on the Blueprint for Reform, which was announced via secretarial order in June. The Blueprint is to restructure and redesign the BIE, transforming the agency from solely a provider of education into a capacity-builder and service-provider to tribes that will operate schools. The redesign will help ensure students attending BIE-funded schools receive a high quality education delivered by tribal governments. The subgroup on infrastructure and economic development reported on its efforts to increase tribal sovereignty, remove regulatory barriers to development and support Native entrepreneurs. The Sept. 30 meeting also included updates from the energy subgroup regarding coordination of federal agency efforts to promote energy and energy infrastructure development in Indian Country. The climate change subgroup discussed its efforts to work with tribal leaders to prioritize the major climate change challenges facing Indian Country and help tribal communities combat and minimize the adverse effects.
BY STAFF REPORTS
10/17/2014 10:00 AM
TEMPE, Ariz. – What does the future hold for Native peoples in an era defined by climate change? How does indigenous knowledge work within the realm of sustainability science? How do these two worlds collide and ultimately benefit native peoples and the earth? Indigenous scholars, sustainability scientists and tribal leaders were expected to gather from Oct. 6-7 to discuss and debate indigenous sustainability and environmental issues. The Arizona State University “Conference on Indigenous Sustainability: Implications for the Future of Indigenous Peoples and Native Nations” offers an unprecedented opportunity to address some of the most pressing issues facing Indigenous people and the earth today. Sustainability is a concept that is engrained in the practices of indigenous people throughout the world who have traditionally practiced living in harmony with natural forces, but Native peoples today are also among the most susceptible to environmental degradation. “Experts agree that indigenous peoples are among the most vulnerable populations in the world to climate change. Most indigenous peoples live in areas that are being heavily impacted by climate change and forms of development including timber harvesting and mining that are quite damaging to the natural environment,” Rebecca Tsosie, ASU Regent’s professor in the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, said. Conference participants will discuss indigenous knowledge and how it is expressed in different parts of the world, said Donald Fixico, ASU distinguished foundation professor of history in the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “We’ll look at how indigenous knowledge has enabled Native peoples to thrive in a comparative discourse with western thinking and western scientists, while both intellectual approaches face similar sustainability issues that involve preserving and renewing natural resources,” Fixico said. Conference participants will discuss and debate topics such as “The Future of Sustainability, Educating the Next Generation;” “Sustaining Indigenous Knowledge and Culture;” “Entrepreneurship and Economic Sustainability;” “Sustaining Inherent Tribal Self-Governance;” and “Tribal Energy and the Environment.” “We look forward to engaging in this historic dialog at ASU while we look toward the future of sustainability studies and educating our next generation of leaders who will serve as stewards of the planet,” said Gary Dirks, ASU professor of practice and director of the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability and ASU LightWorks. The conference is sponsored by the ASU President’s Office of American Indian Initiatives and supported by the ASU Office of the Provost. For more information, go to https://www.regonline.com/builder/site/ or email annabell.bowen@asu.edu or Justin.hongeva@asu.edu.
BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
10/16/2014 02:45 PM
HARDIN, Mont. (AP) – A Montana town that once offered to take in suspected terrorists from Guantanamo Bay out of desperation to fill an empty, $27 million jail has finally started to fill its cells with American Indian inmates from across the Northern Plains. The Two Rivers Regional Detention Facility in Hardin was built in 2007 on hopes it would boost an economically depressed area of southeast Montana bordering the Crow Indian Reservation. But it suffered a series of failures after Montana prison officials said the jail wouldn’t suit their needs. Hardin officials in 2009 sought unsuccessfully to take in detainees from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. They later partnered with a California con man, Michael Hilton, who promised to turn the jail into a paramilitary training site until his criminal background was revealed by The Associated Press and other news organizations. Now local officials said they at last have found a legitimate and reliable operator for the 464-bed jail in Emerald Correctional Management, a Louisiana-based private corrections company. Warden Ken Keller says Two Rivers has taken in almost 60 inmates in recent weeks from American Indian reservations in Montana, Wyoming and North Dakota. Most are serving time for alcohol or drug crimes and must go through an intensive rehabilitation program in Hardin, Keller said. As Keller showed an Associated Press reporter around the jail this week, guards wearing patches with Emerald's green logo patrolled the halls. Inmates clothed in orange were locked into 8- and 24-bed dorm rooms watching television, playing board games and sleeping as they waited for their next therapy session to begin. Others were seen working in the kitchen and being processed in the jail's intake area. “Everybody always said it wasn’t going to happen,” Keller said. “It’s happening.” Yet the latest turn for Two Rivers has raised a new concern for at least one tribal leader: Huge distances separate Hardin from the reservations and will make it difficult for family of inmates to visit. After the jail’s prior setbacks, Emerald representatives cast a wide net in the search for inmates. They delivered what Hardin had long sought: A contract with a government agency, in this case the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs, which should provide a steady flow of inmates potentially for years to come. The federal agency is paying about $70 per inmate per day, and it anticipates placing 80 to 100 inmates at Hardin at any given time, agency spokeswoman Nedra Darling said. For now, all the revenue the jail brings in will go to Emerald and to pay off the $27 million in bonds that paid for its construction. Eventually, Hardin stands to receive 50-cents per inmate, per day, said Jon Matovich, who chairs Hardin’s economic development authority, which owns the jail. Matovich and other town officials said that doesn’t account for the 50 jobs created so far with the jail’s belated opening. That could reach 150 workers if the jail ever reaches full capacity, according to Emerald. “All the Gitmo and Michael Hilton stuff was kind of a black eye in the way those things turned out, but it’s all good now,” Matovich said. Keller said Emerald is talking with law enforcement across the region as it looks to fill the jail’s remaining space. The drug and alcohol treatment provided by Emerald is unavailable in BIA-managed jails, Darling said, and inmates are sent to Hardin only with the agreement of tribal leadership. However, Blackfeet Nation Chairman Harry Barnes said federal officials gave him only three days’ notice before relocating inmates from an outdated jail on his northwestern Montana reservation to Hardin, 380 miles away. “They should have consulted us beforehand,” Barnes said. “They showed up on a Friday and said they were going to tear the jail down Monday. ...We were only in a position to listen, but we had some concerns with people going all the way to Hardin.” Barnes said that could present a hardship for family of inmates who can’t afford the journey. The BIA is working to provide video conferencing or other means for distant family members to communicate with inmates, Darling said. Regarding consultations with tribes, she said agency representatives spoke with Barnes and other member of the Blackfeet tribal council before moving inmates to Hardin. Darling said the agency would listen to any concerns raised by the tribe and follow up as needed. Beyond its agreement with the BIA, Emerald has a separate deal with North Dakota’s Three Affiliated Tribes. Drug and alcohol addiction has spiked in recent years on the reservation near Newtown, North Dakota, fueled by the easy money being generated by an oil boom in the surrounding Bakken region. “We are in the middle of a heroin and meth epidemic. It’s killing everybody, including our kids,” said Bruce Gillette, who directs a drug treatment program for the Three Affiliated Tribes. “We’ve sent people to other treatment facilities but there are no locked doors so they can literally walk out of get kicked out ... From where I’m at, only God could have sent those guys from Hardin to me.”