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Cherokee Nation directing Cobell queries to website
By TESINA JACKSON
Published:3/10/2011 8:27:21 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – After a $3.4 billion settlement was reached in the Cobell v. Salazar lawsuit between the federal government and individual Indian plaintiffs, Cherokee Nation officials have been directing inquiries regarding the settlement to an Indian trust website that was established following the agreement.
In December 2009, the settlement resolved the federal government’s failure to provide a historical accounting for Individual Indian Money accounts and resolves claims that the government mismanaged funds and other trust assets.
“We currently estimate that there are approximately 1,700 IIM (Cherokee) accounts and around 46,000 acres held in restricted status, but the number of citizens affected is unknown because the land records are held at each individual county not the BIA,” said CN Secretary of State Melanie Knight. “There were different federal laws dealing with lands of the Five Tribes, including Cherokee Nation. These laws resulted in far fewer acres that were under federal responsibility per capita during the time period specified in the settlement.”
According to the settlement, two groups of class members are eligible to receive money from the fund – the Historical Accounting Class and the Trust Administration Class.
The HAC is comprised of 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 TAC is comprised of 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 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, $1.9 billion will fund a Interior Department program to buy fractioned 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.
Congress approved the settlement on Nov. 30, and the president signed the Claims Resolution Act of 2010 on Dec. 8.
On Dec. 21, U.S. Senior District Judge Thomas F. Hogan granted preliminary approval of the settlement, setting in motion a process through which hundreds of thousands of individual Native Americans who have or had government-managed IIM accounts or trust lands may receive some of the $3.4 billion.
“If a Cherokee Nation citizen has had an IIM account, individual trust land or restricted land during the time period specified, we recommend they review the website and determine if they may qualify for a claim,” Knight said. “Essentially, anyone who feels they have legitimate claim must file the claim through the Indian Trust Settlement.”
For more information, visit the website www.IndianTrust.com or call 1-800-961-6109.