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Published February 14, 2011, 10:34 PM

Indian Trust Money Meetings Being Held

North Dakota has started talking with Native Americans about how the state's tribes will share in a recent $3.4 billion Indian Trust Settlement. The first meeting took place at Spirit Lake Casino just south of Devils Lake.

North Dakota has started talking with Native Americans about how the state's tribes will share in a recent $3.4 billion Indian Trust Settlement.

The first meeting took place at Spirit Lake Casino just south of Devils Lake.

A 15-year case has come to an end.

The settlement is a victory for those who say the U.S. government mishandled money gleaned from Native American land over a half a century.

Late last year a $3.4 billion settlement was resolved.

The settlement is the result of a lawsuit filed 15 years ago by Elouise Cobell of Montana's Blackfeet Nation.

It claimed hundreds of thousands of Native Americans have suffered because of mismanagement of the Indian trust funds.

"This was to reform the broken trust system because the government had done a horrible job of managing the trust," Justin Guilder, a class council, said.

The interior department will distribute $1.5 billion of the settlement directly to hundreds of thousands of Native Americans.

Another $1.9 billion will buy back tribal land.

Up to $60 million will be used in a scholarship fund for Indian children.

On Monday, people enrolled in the Spirit Lake Sioux Tribe found out more about the case and how, if they're eligible, they can receive money from the claim.

"The government has been declared to be in breach of trust. There is a clear definition of what the government needs to do," Guilder said.

The money is for allotment land.

The more productive the land, the more money an individual can receive.

The smallest amount an eligible person will receive is $1,000.

Some will receive hundreds of thousands or even millions.

Still some we talked to about the landmark settlement are asking, is $3.4 billion enough?

"3.4 billion dollars is absolutely the most we could get. We fought for five months in continuous negotiations for every dollar," Guilder said.

Money received is tax free and will not be used when calculating social benefits programs such as food stamps.

If no appeals are made, the earliest a payment will come out is shortly after the April 20th deadline.

Guilder says it's a landmark case for American Indian rights.

"This is a small measure of recovery for individual Indians who have suffered by this trust system that's been mismanaged by the federal government mismanaged by the federal government," said Guilder.

If you weren't able to make it to Monday's meeting you can find more information online at www.indiantrust.com.

If you have questions you can call 1-800-961-6109.

The next informational meeting will be held Tuesday at the Turtle Mountain Bingo Palace near Belcourt, ND.

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