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North Dakota Tribes endorse Cobell settlement
11 December 2009

BISMARCK (UTND) - The tribes of North Dakota are calling on Congress to take speedy action to approve the settlement in the Cobell case. Meeting December 11 in Bismarck, the United Tribes of North Dakota board passed a resolution urging congress “to immediately enact the legislation” required by the settlement. The settlement was announced December 8 by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. It would resolve a 13 year old court case over the mismanagement of funds held in trust for American Indian landowners.

Three Affiliated Tribal Chairman Marcus D. Levings urged Congress to follow through with legislation on the Cobell settlement by December 31.

      Lead plaintiff Elouise Cobell, of the Blackfeet Nation in Montana, filed the lawsuit in 1996 on behalf of more than 300,000 owners of Individual Indian Money (IIM) accounts, where earnings from lands and resources are held for them.

       “At home we have upwards of 11,000 enrolled members with IIM accounts,” said Marcus D. Levings, Three Affiliated Tribes chairman. “The tribes in this region we have a very large number of people who are affected by the settlement.”

      During the course of the litigation, it was learned that the Federal government could not provide an accounting for the funds entrusted to it over the course of the past 150 years.

      The $3.4 billion settlement authorizes the creation of a fund for tribal land consolidation and direct payments to every American Indian who holds a valid IIM account.

      The settlement requires action from Congress by December 31. Without it, the agreement would be considered null and void.

      The UTND board called on members of the North Dakota and South Dakota Congressional Delegations to sponsor the legislation and hold emergency hearings if necessary “to ensure that the appropriate legislation is enacted” before the deadline.

      “I’m sure that Congress is aware of what they need to do now,” said Levings. “This is our way of supporting them and encouraging them on.”

      The United Tribes resolution also urged the involvement of North Dakota U. S. Senator Byron L. Dorgan, chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs.

      “Elouise Cobell and John Echo Hawk and the other attorneys involved are to be commended for their hard work on this case for over a decade,” said Levings.

      United Tribes of North Dakota is an association of the five federally recognized Tribes located in North Dakota: Three Affiliated Tribes, Sisseton Wahpeton Oyaté, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, Spirit Lake Tribe and the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa. Levings is the board’s current chairperson.

      For more information visit: http://www.cobellsettlement.com/

United Tribes of North Dakota Resolution on Cobell Settlement Legislation