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Cobell Indian trust settlement wins House approval, heads to the White House

Next step: A federal judge will have to decide how the money is allotted.
BY CHRIS CASTEEL ccasteel@opubco.com Modified: December 1, 2010 at 8:17 am •  Published: December 1, 2010
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The U.S. House gave final congressional approval on Tuesday to a $3.4 billion settlement with American Indians whose government trust accounts were mismanaged for more than a century.

President Barack Obama hailed the vote on the bill and is expected to sign it, leaving to a federal judge here to determine how the money will be divided among more than 300,000 individual Indians, including an estimated 50,000 in Oklahoma.

The bill, which passed 256 to 152, also includes a settlement with black farmers who sued over discrimination in federal farm programs and settlements with four separate tribes over water rights.

Elouise Cobell, the lead plaintiff in the class-action lawsuit that was filed in 1996, said congressional approval was a monumental step “to remove a stain on our national honor and create a better future for Indians as our government begins to make some amends for grave past injustices.”

“While the money is not as much as we believe we are entitled to, there was no end in sight to this litigation and the settlement will be recognized by Native People as an acknowledgment by the federal government that it wronged them by its mismanagement of Indian money and Indian lands.”

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