a federal judge in albuquerque, new mexico on wednesday approved a $940 million settlement between native american tribes and the obama administration. the class-action lawsuit claims the government shorted tribes for decades on contract costs to manage education, law enforcement and other federal services.
the judge's recommendation begins a process to release payments to the tribes attorneys said could take several months. michael gross, a lawyer for the tribes said, "the end result was there were no objections to the settlement and no objection to the fee request. this showed a unity among indian tribes that is absolutely astounding."
the ruling also authorized a $1.2 million reimbursement for lead plaintiff's costs, and an agreement for attorneys to receive 8.5% of the final settlement amount. nearly 700 tribes, or tribal agencies, are expected to claim compensation, with amounts ranging from an estimated $8,000 for some alaska native villages and communities elsewhere to $58 million for the navajo nation.
val panteah, governor of zuni pueblo, described "a financial death spiral." he said it came as his government tried to offset losses from the contracts in new mexico. other tribal leaders described trying to stem losses from the underfunded contracts with painful budget costs as they tried to meet critical needs in their communities.
the case was originally filed in 1990 by the ramah navajo chapter, a community of about 4,000 people. they became the case's lead plaintiff, along with the oglala sioux tribe in south dakota and zuni pueblo.
in 2012, the case went before the u.s. supreme court. the court sided with the tribes and sent the case back to the lower courts before the interior department announced a proposed settlement last fall. since the supreme court ruling, congress has appropriated hundreds of millions of dollars to fully fund contract support costs for tribes.
the settlement is the latest in a recent string of major agreements between the interior department and native tribes to resolve legal disputes which languished for years. in the largest agreement, the government agreed to pay $3.4 billion to resolve claims over royalties owed to generations of individual landowners.
kevin washburn, former interior department assistant secretary for indian affairs said, "it just shows the obama administration has been working throughout two terms to stop litigating with tribes. now, even in the last year of the administration, they're getting this lengthy case settled."
- mark j. tuggle
- harlem, usa
- same-gender-loving contemporary descendant of enslaved africans. community activist, feminist, health educator, independent filmmaker, mentor, playwright, poet & spiritual being. featured at, in & on africana.com, afrikan poetry theatre, angel herald, bejata dot com, bet tonight with tavis smiley, blacklight online, black noir, brooklyn moon cafe, gmhc's barbershop, klmo-fm, lgbt community services center, longmoor productions, nuyorican poets cafe, our corner, poz, pulse, rolling out new york, rush arts gallery, saint veronica's church, schomburg center for research in black culture, sexplorations, the citizen, the new york times, the soundz bar, the trenton times, the village voice, upn news, uzuri, venus, vibe, wbai-fm, wnyc-fm & wqht-fm. volunteered with adodi, bailey house, inc., black men's xchange-new york, colorofchange.org, drug policy alliance, east harlem tutorial program, imagenation film & music festival, presente.org, save darfur coalition, the enough project, the osborne association, the sledge group & your black world. worked on films with maurice jamal & heather murphy. writing student of phil bertelsen & ed bullins. firstname.lastname@example.org.