FARMINGTON — The second round of payments for the Cobell v. Salazar Settlement will be mailed early next year.
An announcement was posted Monday on the website IndianTrust.com stating that the settlement agreement requires the U.S. Department of the Interior to identify all qualified individuals and their payment amounts before checks are mailed.
"That work is ongoing and is nearly complete," according to the statement.
The settlement is from the 1996 class action lawsuit filed by the late Elouise Cobell of the Blackfeet Tribe in Montana.
Cobell was an Individual Indian Money account holder and uncovered years of neglect by the federal government when it came to keeping accurate records of Indian trust accounts. The federal government collected payments for these accounts from activities such as farming and grazing leases, timber sales, mining, and oil and gas production on trust land.
The settlement, which was about $3.4 billion, was reached between the Interior and Treasury Departments and the individual Indian plaintiffs in December 2009 in the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C.
The settlement provided $1.4 billion to pay recipients listed under the Historical Accounting Class and the Trust Administration Class, $1.9 billion to purchase fractionated individual Indian trust lands and up to $60 million for a scholarship fund to help Native Americans attend college or vocational school.
David Smith, an attorney with Kilpatrick Townsend who worked on the Cobell case, said there were 23,994 Navajo allottees who received or were entitled to payments under the Historical Accounting Class. Each of those people received $1,000.
In this second round, there 34,786 Navajo allottees listed in the Trust Administration Class who will split about $49.5 million. Each person is expected to receive at least $800, though that amount could be larger, depending on that person's account activity.
There are still more than 6,000 Navajo allottees whose whereabouts are unknown, and attempts have been made to locate those individuals, Smith said.
"We want to make sure that everyone who is entitled to a payment receives it," Smith said.
Individuals who think they are entitled to payment under the settlement may contact Smith at 202-508-5865.
After the settlement was finalized, the Interior Department developed the Secretarial Commission on Indian Trust Administration and Reform.
The commission was expected to complete a comprehensive evaluation and provide advice and recommendations regarding trust management to the department within two years.
Since its creation, the commission has worked to complete those tasks and will have its next public webinar at 11 a.m. Eastern Standard Time on Tuesday.
Although the commission was intended to exist for two years, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell issued a notice to renew it that was printed in the Federal Register in November.Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 and email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @nsmithdt on Twitter.