WASHINGTON — The Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma is one of 41 tribes that have agreed to settle claims against the federal government involving the management of tribal assets in trust accounts, administration officials announced Wednesday.
In all, the government will pay about $1 billion to the tribes to resolve lawsuits and other claims, some stretching back a century. The trust accounts administered by the government contain tribal income from a range of activity involving tribal resources, such as oil and gas leasing on Indian land.
The administration did not release details on how the settlement will be divided among the tribes.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said the settlements “fairly and honorably resolve historical grievances over the accounting and management of tribal trust funds, trust lands and other nonmonetary trust resources.”
Holder said the claims had created distrust and division between tribes and the U.S. government and that the settlements would mark further progress in the relationship.
The settlement is the latest in a series of resolutions under the Obama administration to long-running and acrimonious disputes with tribes. The biggest was the $3.4 billion settlement in 2009 of the lawsuit involving an estimated 500,000 individual American Indians who had trust accounts with the federal government. Then, last year, the administration agreed to pay the Osage Nation of Oklahoma $380 million to settle trust account claims that had been litigated for 12 years.
The Pawnee Nation was among more than 40 tribes named as plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed in 2006 by the Native American Rights Fund seeking a full accounting of the tribal trust funds. Two other Oklahoma tribes — the Cheyenne-Arapahos and the Sac and Fox Nation — were also part of that lawsuit, but were not part of the settlement.
According to the administration, settlement talks are under way with other tribes suing the federal government.