Wednesday, December 09, 2009

U.S. settles Indian lawsuit over energy royalties

The federal government announced Tuesday an agreement to settle a 13-year-old class-action lawsuit by paying $3.4 billion to settle claims that it mismanaged the energy-production royalties in American Indian trust funds. The lawsuit centered on hundreds of thousands of disputed land trust accounts that date back to the 19th century, Charlie Savage of The New York Times reports.

Tribal-law specialists described the lawsuit as one of the most important in the history of legal disputes involving the government’s treatment of Indians, and President Obama described the agreement as an "important step towards a sincere reconciliation." Before the agreement becomes final Congress must enact legislation and the federal courts must then sign off on it, Savage reports. Administration officials said they hoped those steps would be completed in the next few months.

"This is an historic, positive development for Indian country,” Interior Secretary Ken Salazar told Savage, "and a major step on the road to reconciliation following years of acrimonious litigation between trust beneficiaries and the United States." Each member of the class-action lawsuit will receive a $1,000 check with the rest of the money to be divided according to land owned. (Read more)

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