First payments in Cobell Settlement soon heading to Native Americans

Marciana Garay is one of thousands of Montanans receiving Cobell settlement checks from the Federal Government

Marciana Garay is one of thousands of Montanans receiving Cobell settlement checks from the Federal Government

The federal government is sending out the first round of payments to half a million Native Americans following a record $3.4 billion class-action suit over the government’s mismanagement of Indian trust funds.

Montana Blackfeet woman Elouise Cobell spearheaded the lawsuit for 15 years. She died of cancer in October 2011, after the settlement was reached but before the end of the appeals process.

Some tribal members receiving the $1000 checks have mixed feelings about the settlement.

In a brick building near Helena’s downtown on Wednesday, the nonprofit Helena Indian Alliance was preparing for their annual Christmas Party

“We have a big feast,” said Marciana Garay, an elderly Blackfeet woman in a white sweater with a decorative blue handkerchief tied around her neck. “Everybody brings a side dish and then we have a Santa clause for the children and we give out little gifts to them.”

Garay is one of thousands of Montanans who will be receiving a check from the landmark Cobell settlement with the federal government. Elouise Cobell was Garay’s distant cousin. She remembers speaking with Cobell many years ago on the Blackfeet reservation.

“And we would discuss all the thefts goin on with various companies coming in and taking oil,” Garay said.

Cobell worked as treasurer of the Blackfeet tribe for years. She discovered inconsistencies in how Indian trust lands and other funds were being managed by the federal government. Royalties from things like oil or lumber production on those lands were supposed to be going back to the Indian land owners. Cobell filed a lawsuit against the government in the mid-1990s. She lived to see the settlement reached in 2009.

The Federal government finalized the settlement late in November of 2012 and says checks should start going out this week. Jeremy Red Eagle runs youth programs at the Helena Indian Alliance.

“It’s definitely a victory to a certain degree,” he said. “The fact that we’re in a day and age where we can sue the United States government and whether we were able to get what we wanted was a different story.”

The $3.4 billion settlement is split in a couple ways. The thousand dollar checks being sent out first acknowledge the government violating its contract with Indian nations. Other funds from the suit will be distributed later, and a $60 million college scholarship fund is being set up for Native youth.

Red Eagle was told he’ll be getting about $1800 from the suit. He thinks the settlement helps, but it should have been much larger.

“Well, for one I know in most native communities most of our people live below the poverty level, so I think in that sense it’s gonna help a lot of people out especially if they do show up when they say they’re gonna. But my thought’s in general about the whole situation is it’s kind of a slap in the face because we are getting pennies on the dollar about what the original lawsuit was about,” he said.

Red Eagle says he’s spending his money to fly to Minnesota to take part in a memorial ride and a memorial run for ancestors killed in a genocide in the 1860s.

“It’s kind of ironic that’s what we would spend our money on doing,” he said.

Marciana Garay though is staying local with her check.

“What would you be using yours for?” I asked her.

“Bills,” she laughed, “and a good Christmas for my kids and my grandkids.”

And she believes every tribe that benefitted from this lawsuit should somehow honor the memory of Elouise Cobell.

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40 thoughts on “First payments in Cobell Settlement soon heading to Native Americans

  1. Thanks for sharing this information. Native Americans and their lands azre being exploited by all the consumerist/consumptionists nations that will stop at nothing to profit and exploit the earth. Many prayers and hope the checks ease some suffering over Christmas.

  2. how ever WE all use our monies will be in memorial of ms. cobell. a woman with the back bone and wisdom. only ms. cobell knew the govt system. and she has taken all that knowledge with her, we’ll never know the rest of the REAL story!! it would be great to have the one-time paid out, being without a home for seven years is NO fun. Lord, knows all our needs!!

  3. Hey Marci, glad to see you speak out. As for the Cobell checks, only the historical class with IIM accounts will get their checks in December while the status won’t receive there’s until ..??????

  4. this christmas will b in honor of a brave woman…elouise cobell…thank u for ur brave heart and ur undying soul…my kids will hav a christmas because of u!!

  5. IF ALL OF US HAD THE GUTS AND DETERMINATION TO FIGHT FOR OUR RIGHTS AND WHAT WE ARE DUTIFULLY OWED, I AM VERY SORRY THAT ELOISE COBELL DID NOT LIVE TO SEE THIS DAY, SHE SHOULD BE HONORED FOR WHAT SHE DID FOR HER NATIVE BROTHERS AND SISTERS WHO RIGHTFULLY DESERVE IT. GOD BLESS HER FOR HER FOR ALL SHE ACCOMPLISHED AND GOD BLESS HER FAMILY.

    • agreed… i have done some math of my own… HUGE discrepancies…. but it seems irresponsible to me, to allow the party in accused of FRAUD to be in charge of distribution of funds…. and just because Chase Bank is the source of individual payments, does not mean they are not influenced by uncle sam…. sick and tired of being treated like a disabled body…..

  6. so…. its the end of the week already…. oh gee look at that NO MONEY YET! there are too many greedy punks in our government to do something right…. what a joke! i mean, look at the ethical issue this whole thing is about…. and we are supposed to trust them to do THIS properly/ethically? im not the brightest guy, but i didnt just fall off the turnip truck….

  7. The attorneys,who are making a killing,( big profit ) and taking advantage of the situation,should at least turn half of there profits back to the ones who they are really taking advantage of (native americans).Our ancestors sacrificed every thing so we are able to survive and we continue to struggle.For what they are recieving and what they are giving us is humiliation, thievery again as history has proven

  8. why can’t they inform people if they are part of this cobell settlement? They must know, they have the amount figured out,

  9. Everyone who has an IIM account has been notified with a letter. If you did not update your address, it is not the fault of Cobell representation. The Cobell settlement is very well organized.

    • I’m sorry, but everyone did not receive a letter. I have an IIM account and a member of both classes, my address is up to date, and received IIM account statements on a regular basis. However, still no check and no letter. So maybe a disclaimer is in order when making these statements about “well organized” and “not the fault”; then who’s fault is it, mine?????

      • No organization. My check was sent to an address over 7 years old. I do have an IIM account and do get my statements regularly. The website is misleading where it states you have to do nothing is you are currently receiving IIM account statements. I can’t figure out where they got such an old address when my address is current with the BIA. Since the settlement was only approved in 2009 it would seem they would have gotten addresses after that date. Doesn’t make sense to me.

  10. my father fought for your rights through the american indian movement have some respect for the true natives that still believe in the old ways take your money and be happy you furgal sob michael twoelk son of aaron edison twoelk,do not hold up this case any longer

  11. My mom and her sister (Navajo) received their checks yesterday… I had to do some research for her as we didn’t trust “free” money this time of year, glad to see it wasn’t a scam for the elderly or Natives. Thank you Cobell, hopefully tribal lands will see more benefits from better managed lands.

  12. The Cobell Settlement was not very well organized, we live in Oklahoma and i know for a fact that alot of addresses where updated through IIM accounts and people still do not have their checks and the post office had to post a list of names of all the checks that had a wrong address. They are using addresses that are 13 years old. Not very organized at all !!!!!

    • I too am from Oklahoma. All my siblings got their payment except for me. The address they had for me was over 7 years old. I get my IIM account statements regularly so someone screwed up bad.

  13. WHO CARES ABOUT THE DAMN MONEY!!!! A GOOD LADY DIED GETTING THIS ALL SET UP N ALL U PEOPLE ARE WORRIED ABOUT IS GETTING THE MONEY!!!!!!!!!!! I CAN CARE LESS ABOUT THE MONEY! CAUSE SANTEE SIOUX TRIBE DONT HELP N E BODY UNLESS UR FAMILY OF THE TRIBAL BOARD!!!!!!! U KNOW I HAD MY TWO OLDER KIDS ENROLLED BACK IN 93 N NOW THE TRIBE SAY’S THEY ARE NOT INDIAN CAUSE THIER FATHER IS MEXICAN.SO THEY DEENROLLED THEY LAST MONTH. DIDNT KNOW THEY COULD DO THAT.THEY HAD TO ASK ME IF THIER FATHER IS A SIOUX INDIAN. OK SO I AM WHITE N INDIAN, CANDIAN SO DOES THAT NOT MAKE ME SANTEE SIOUX.I DONT GET HOW MY TWO KIDS ARE NOT CONSIDERED SIOUX INDIANS JUST BECAUSE THEY ARE SPANISH ALSO. BUT THEY WOULD BE IF THEY HAD AN NATIVE AMERICAN FATHER.. N TO ALL THE OTHER TRIBES WHO DONT CARE WHAT OTHER COLOR IS MIXED IN. I AM HAPPY THAT THEY AT LEAST DONT CARE IF UR MIXED AT LEAST UR STILL CONSIDERED INDIAN,UNLIKE MY TWO KIDS. SO I DONT CONSIDER MYSELF NATIVE AMERICAN ANYMORE IF MY KIDS ARE NOT NATIVE IN THEIR EYES HOW IS IT THAT I AM….. WHEN MY DAD IS A WHITE MAN………

  14. i don’t think they know who gets the money.my daughter,relatives,and alot of others got their checks but me and my brothers and sisters.don’t understand.

  15. this settlement was good if you ever recieve it. my famiely has had hard time recieving it because of supposedly ‘address issues’ but is it really a way to delay the payments? we did all of our updated info in plenty of time yet by computor “gliches” it was lost. now we have to wait. maybe the lawyers need to investigate this or if this garden city group cant handle it they need to find one who can wouldn’t it be contempt of court if we didnt pay by the judges order

    • yea I told twice under person sending out checks all our address were wrong and names didnt match the Tribe id numbers I’ve turned in the paperwork 3 times and still they cant get it right I’ve lived in same house over 21 yrs so what their excuse why it hasn’t come yet??? lots of checks floating around so they can hold on to that money and get interest off it…I could really use that money I just totaled my car and need get another one…

  16. Hi everyone, I am a 3rd generation tribal member from the Bad River tribe of Ojibwe indians in Wisconsin. My grandparents and mom all grew up on the reservation. As far as I know, my mom and grandma have already received their checks, but I have yet to file a claim. As far as I know, I have an IIM account, but I only heard about this recently through my brother. Does anyone know if I can receive a settlement?

  17. what i want to know, is why my mother, my son & nephew received this payment, but no one else in my family? this just doesnt make any sense.

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