In this Dec. 17, 2009, photo, Elouise Cobell, right, looks on as Deputy Secretary of the Interior David Hayes testifies during a Senate Indian Affairs Committee hearing in Washington, D.C. Native Americans who sued the federal government over lost royalties have been waiting nearly 15 years for the $3.4 billion settlement Congress passed in November. EVAN VUCCI/AP PHOTO

Indian Trust Settlement deadline approaches

BY STAFF REPORTS
03/30/2011 07:45 AM
WASHINGTON – A court-ordered process of notifying individual Indians of their legal rights in the historic $3.4 billion class action settlement, Cobell v. Salazar, is coming to a close.

The settlement resolves claims related to Individual Indian Money accounts and interests in land held in trust or restricted fee by the federal government for the benefit of individual Indians.

Class members throughout the country have received detailed information about their legal rights and options via U.S. mail and through an extensive media campaign, which included Native American print media, television and radio ads and online advertising.

Class members who received a formal notice in the mail about the settlement and who are receiving IIM account statements do not have to do anything to receive payment. Individuals who believe they should be part of the settlement but did not receive a notice in the mail or are not receiving IIM account statements need to fill out a claim form as soon as possible, available at the Indian Trust website www.IndianTrust.com or by calling toll-free 1-800-961-6109.

Class members who wish to keep their rights to sue the federal government over mismanagement claims covered by the settlement must exclude themselves from the settlement by April 20. Class members can also submit written comments or objections about any settlement terms that concern them by April 20.

The settlement provides a $1.5 billion fund to compensate an estimated 500,000 affected individual Indian trust beneficiaries who have or had IIM accounts or hold an interest in trust or restricted land. It creates two classes of members eligible to receive money from the fund – the Historical Accounting and the Trust Administration classes.

The Historical Accounting Class comprises individual Indians who were alive on Sept. 30, 2009, who had an open IIM account anytime between Oct. 25, 1994 and Sept. 30, 2009, and whose account had at least one cash transaction.

The Trust Administration Class comprises individual Indians alive on Sept. 30, 2009, who had an IIM account at any time from 1985 through Sept. 30, 2009, recorded in currently available electronic data in federal government systems, as well as individual Indians who, as of Sept. 30, 2009, had a recorded or demonstrable interest in land held in trust or restricted status.

The estates of deceased class members will also receive a settlement distribution if the deceased beneficiary’s account was open as of Sept. 30, 2009, or their land interest was open in probate as of that date. Other eligibility conditions and requirements for each class are detailed in the settlement agreement.

Under the settlement agreement, $1.9 billion will fund a Department of the Interior program to buy fractionated interests in trust or restricted land from willing sellers to benefit tribal communities and aid in land consolidation. Depending on the level of participation in the land consolidation program, up to $60 million will be set aside to provide scholarships for higher education for American Indian and Alaska Native youth.

The website and toll-free number are available to provide more information about the settlement and the legal rights of class members. Individuals who are unsure whether they are included in the settlement should visit the website or call for more information.

News

BY STAFF REPORTS
08/27/2015 04:00 PM
LONGMONT, Colo. – The First Nations Development Institute is accepting applications for five $1,000 Native Agriculture and Food Systems Scholarships until Sept. 30. The program is to encourage more Native American college students to enter agricultural-related fields so they can one day assist their communities with food production, improving health and nutrition and eliminating food insecurity, according to the organization’s website. The scholarship can be used in degree fields such as agribusiness management, agriscience technologies, agronomy, animal husbandry, aquaponics, fisheries and wildlife, food production and safety, food-related policy and legislation, horticulture, irrigation science, plant-based nutrition and sustainable agriculture or food systems. Scholarship applicants must be a full-time undergraduate student majoring in agriculture or an agricultural-related field, be Native American with proof of tribal enrollment, have at least a 3.0 GPA and demonstrate a commitment to helping their community reclaim local food-system control. Applicants are also required to submit an enrollment verification form, unofficial transcript, letter of recommendation from a faculty member and a 250-500 word essay addressing how their degree program will help regain control over their local food and explaining how the money would be used. The FNDI’s mission is to strengthen American Indian communities by investing and creating institutions and models that support economic development. To apply, visit <a href="http://www.firstnations.org/grantmaking/scholarship" target="_blank">www.firstnations.org/grantmaking/scholarship</a>. For more information, call 303-774-7836 or email <a href="mailto: ktallmadge@firstnations.org">ktallmadge@firstnations.org</a> or <a href="mailto: mwhiting@firstnations.org">mwhiting@firstnations.org</a>.
BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
08/27/2015 02:00 PM
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) – A Wyoming company has entered a partnership to develop a Washington state coal port for shipments of the fuel to Asia, in a deal that gives Montana's Crow Tribe the future option of a 5 percent stake in the project. Cloud Peak Energy paid $2 million up front and will pay up to $30 million to cover permitting expenses for the Gateway Pacific Terminal, in exchange for a 49 percent stake in the project, spokesman Rick Curtsinger said Friday. The port in the Puget Sound, just south of the U.S.-Canada border, would accommodate almost 60 million tons a year of coal and other commodities. Cloud Peak, based in Gillette, plans to construct a major mine on the Crow Reservation. Coal companies hope exports to Asia will shore up their industry, which has been battered by competition from cheap natural gas and more stringent restrictions on pollution caused by burning the fuel. Port sponsor SSA Marine retained a 51 percent ownership in the project. The tribe's stake in the port would come out of Cloud Peak's share, and Curtsinger said there is no upfront financial obligation for the Crow. However, if the Crow exercises its ownership option, the tribe would be responsible for 5 percent of construction financing, Curtsinger said. Washington state's Lummi Nation has pressed the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to deny the project's permit because it would disrupt the tribe's fishing practices. The proposal also has met strong opposition from environmental groups worried about the greenhouse gases and other pollutants produced by burning coal. Crow Chairman Darren Old Coyote said the deal still needs approval from the tribal Legislature. Construction of the port would make it easier for Cloud Peak to develop and mine coal on the reservation, he said. "It's basically a low-risk, 5 percent stake," he said. Construction costs for Gateway Pacific have been estimated at $700 million, although that could change depending on any conditions attached to pending permits from state and federal agencies, said SSA Marine Senior Vice President Bob Watters. Watters said environmental studies on the proposed port could be done by the end of 2016. The ownership agreement gives Cloud Peak the right to exit the deal during the permitting phase and return its interests to SSA Marine. A previous deal gave Cloud Peak the option to move almost 18 million tons of coal annually through the port.
BY STAFF REPORTS
08/27/2015 12:00 PM
BILLINGS, Mont. – The Professional Indian Horse Racing Association has launched a new website where Indian Relay fans will find everything they need to know about the current relay season, including PIHRA team members and current standings, as well as hotel, ticket and sponsor information for the All Nations Championships. This year, the All Nations Indian Relay Championships will be held Sept. 17-20 at the historic MetraPark Grandstands in Billings. The top teams representing 15 Indian nations will compete for more than $75,000 in money prizes, expenses and the coveted Champions’ Jackets and Belt Buckles. PIHRA was founded to promote Indian Relay, horsemanship and safety and has developed a season-long championship series, culminating with the All Nations Indian Relay Championships. There were 17 founding teams in 2013. Today, PIHRA membership is expected to exceed 60 teams. The teams come from Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Utah, Montana, South Dakota and Canada. The tribes represented in relay include Oglala Lakota Sioux, Northern Cheyenne, Blackfeet, Crow, Shoshone-Bannock, Eastern Shoshone, the Colville Confederated Tribes and the Umatilla Confederated Tribes. For more information, visit the new website at <a href="http://www.letsrelay.com" target="_blank">www.letsrelay.com</a>.
08/26/2015 12:00 PM
PRYOR, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation Election Commission will be on hand to register voters at the Mayes County Courthouse from 4:30 to 6 p.m. on Aug. 26 as part of an event honoring the 95th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which guaranteed women the right to vote. To register, individuals will need to bring a CN citizenship card or photo identification card, current physical address and a current mailing address, if different. The event will also feature the Mayes County Election Board and Democratic Party Chairman Darrell Moore for a celebration of all female elected officials in Mayes County. Nena Roberts, Pryor Creek deputy clerk and event coordinator, was approached about the idea for a celebration by the Women on 20s non-profit organization. The organization was created to encourage the idea of a woman replacing former President Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill and an online election in March allowed voters to chose from a variety of women, including the late former Principal Chief Wilma Mankiller. Jackson was the seventh president of the United States and forced Native Americans west out of their homelands in what would later become known as the Trail of Tears. Former slave and suffragette Harriet Tubman eventually emerged the victor and a petition was submitted to President Barack Obama on May 12 informing him of the results. The organization will also have a table at the event where attendees can sign a petition demanding that Tubman appear on the $20 bill as originally asked, rather than share space with Alexander Hamilton on the $10 bill, as the U.S. Treasury has offered to compromise. “We would love to see a woman not have to share her glory, and her opportunity to be recognized and honored,” Susan Ades Stone, the executive director of the campaign, said to USA Today. “And Alexander Hamilton is not someone that people have a problem with.” “It’s not enough,” said Roberts. “The whole purpose is to replace Andrew Jackson.” For more information, email <a href="mailto: pryortigers@yahoo.com">pryortigers@yahoo.com</a>.
BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
08/26/2015 10:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. (AP) - Claiming an invasion of privacy, a Tulsa couple has filed suit to challenge the federal Indian Child Welfare Act, specifically the Oklahoma provision which allows tribal intervention in adoption procedure, even if the birth parents want no tribal involvement. The couple argues that American Indians are not exempt from an expectation of privacy during voluntary adoptions. Chrissi Nimmo, an assistant attorney general for Cherokee Nation, said the Oklahoma Indian Child Welfare Act was passed to “tighten up” the federal Indian Child Welfare Act. The federal version of the law gives tribes the right to intervene in adoptions of Indian children, but it does not require notification of tribes in voluntary adoptions. The Oklahoma act requires tribes receive notification whenever an adoption of an Indian child occurs. Since the lawsuit is entirely anonymous, Nimmo said the tribe has been put in an odd position as they prepare to defend the act in court. “We don’t have any information about the case, only supposed facts,” said Nimmo. This particular piece of the Oklahoma Indian Child Welfare Act has been deemed constitutional by the Oklahoma Supreme Court. Nimmo also said the federal and state versions of the law require adoptions to remain confidential, though the lawsuit states that the biological parents did not want to notify the tribe of the adoption for fear of their personal story “spreading through the tribal community.” Nimmo said while the tribe has a legal right to intervene, it does not necessarily have the power to stop an adoption. “We may choose not to intervene in this case,” said Nimmo. Because the adoptive father is a Cherokee Nation citizen, according to the lawsuit, Nimmo said the adoption follows the guidelines of the Indian Child Welfare Act. Asked if the tribe would intervene if the adoption had been pursued with the original non-Indian adoptive parents, Nimmo did not specify whether the tribe would intervene under such circumstances. “It depends on the facts of the case,” said Nimmo. She said factors may include other Cherokee families interested in adopting, if a placement fits a child’s special needs in a manner available Cherokee families could not, and the preferences of the birth parents. “Under the law, preference of both parents is a reason to deviate,” said Nimmo. Within the law, there is an order of prefered placement. Family members are considered first, then Cherokee families, then other viable families wishing to adopt. But if there is “good cause” to deviate from the ICWA, it can legally be done. A recognized good cause for deviation is the parent’s wishes. The tribe can object to a child’s placement, and the child may still be placed against the tribe’s wishes, though Nimmo suggested going against the tribe would entail some legal procedures. Nimmo said even if biological and adoptive parents have no relationship with the tribe, the child has individual rights to apply for citizenship in the future, to receive benefits, and to have a relationship with the tribe. If the tribe is not notified when a child is being placed, records of their connection to the tribe may be lost during adoption, according to Nimmo. “Just because this child is being adopted doesn’t mean the relationship or the future relationship between the child and their tribe should be severed,” said Nimmo.
BY STAFF REPORTS
08/25/2015 10:30 AM
CATOOSA, Okla. – On Aug. 25, the Cherokee Nation will host a hiring fair at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa for positions at the new Macy’s Fulfillment Center in Owasso. The company will be looking to fill more than 1,000 seasonal jobs at the hiring fair, which is from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Attendees need to be prepared for an on-site interview. The new fulfillment center hosted its grand opening earlier this month. The CN, the state and other agencies partnered to attract Macy’s to northeastern Oklahoma. As part of the agreement, the tribe’s Career Services is handling the recruitment for more than 1,500 jobs at the company’s Owasso site. Interested applicants can pre-apply online at <a href="http://www.macysJOBS.com" target="_blank">www.macysJOBS.com</a>. For more information, visit the website or call 918-401-2828.