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Indian ranchers advised to prepare for claims
29 November 2010

BISMARCK (UTN) - Native American ranchers and farmers, who were involved in the successful class action lawsuit against the government, should be sure to register at the class action website as soon as they can for information about the case and so they will eventually receive a claims packet.

      That was the leading piece of advice provided by the lead plaintiffs and their legal team in the Keepseagle v. Vilsack Native American discrimination lawsuit. It came during a meeting November 22 at United Tribes Technical College attended by 200 ranchers and farmers from North Dakota and surrounding states.

Lead plaintiffs Marilyn and George Keepseagle, Fort Yates, ND, thanked members of the drum group Oakdale, Mandaree, ND, during an honoring November 22 for participants and lawyers in the successful Indian ranchers class action lawsuit against the USDA. United Tribes News photo Dennis J. Neumann

      Attorneys explained what comes next as the U. S. Department of Agriculture is required to provide $680 million in damages to thousands of Native American farmers and ranchers nationwide. They cautioned the process will not occur overnight.

      The first step is to sign up to receive the court-approved notice to the class and information from the legal team about the case, including where and when information meetings will be held throughout the country, and to eventually receive a claims packet. The notices sent to potential claimants will also contain information about the case, timelines and deadlines, and information about how to begin preparing for a claim.

      The United Tribes meeting was the first large group gathering of the plaintiffs since an October 19, 2010 settlement agreement ended 11 years of litigation over alleged discrimination against Native American ranchers and farmers in the USDA’s farm loan programs.

      Registering on the website will help the legal team identify the locations of plaintiffs and where to hold future meetings. Attorneys said assistance will be provided in filling out claims forms at meetings.

      Information about the terms of the settlement will be circulated nationwide over the next two months along with a request for comments from class members, said lead counsel Joseph M. Sellers, partner, Cohen Milstein Sellers and Toll, PLLC, Washington, DC. Final approval of the settlement by the Federal judge in the case is expected following an April 28, 2011, Fairness Hearing. The actual process of filing claims would begin no sooner than 60 days later, commencing in the Summer of 2011 and extending until the end of the year.

      Additional information about the claims timeline, class requirements, settlement categories and amounts, and the claims packet can be obtained at the website set up by the legal team, www.indianfarmclass.com, or by calling the toll free phone number 1-888-223-5506.


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