Government settles century-old tribal claims for $1 billion

Interior's Ken Salazar testified before the Senate Indian Affairs Committee hearing on the Cobell v. Salazar lawsuit. Interior's Ken Salazar testified before the Senate Indian Affairs Committee hearing on the Cobell v. Salazar lawsuit. Evan Vucci/AP

The federal government has agreed to pay more than $1 billion to settle lawsuits filed by 41 tribes alleging mismanagement of money and natural resources held in trust, the Interior and Justice departments announced Thursday.

The agreement resolves century-old disputes and ends years of protracted litigation. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said the $1.023 billion deal “strengthens the government-to-government relationship with tribal nations, helps restore a positive working relationship with Indian country leaders and empowers American Indian communities.”

Interior manages nearly 56 million acres of tribal land, including more than 100,000 leases for housing, timber harvesting, farming, grazing, oil and gas extraction, and other uses, according to a press release. The department also manages some 2,500 tribal trust accounts.

Tribes suing over mismanagement of the trust land and accounts began requesting expedited settlement discussions in 2009.

The government won final approval in 2011 for a $3.4 billion settlement of an unrelated class action lawsuit, Cobell v. Salazar, which also alleged Interior mismanaged tribal land and assets. But that suit was brought by individuals, not tribes.

Attorney General Eric Holder said the deal announced Thursday resolves claims that “for far too long have been a source of conflict between Indian tribes and the United States.” He said the settlements fairly and honorably address the tribes’ historical grievances.

The tribes will be compensated from the congressionally appropriated Judgment Fund -- which pays settlements against the U.S. government -- and have agreed to dismiss and not relodge their claims, the Interior release said.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

  • Federal IT Applications: Assessing Government's Core Drivers

    In order to better understand the current state of external and internal-facing agency workplace applications, Government Business Council (GBC) and Riverbed undertook an in-depth research study of federal employees. Overall, survey findings indicate that federal IT applications still face a gamut of challenges with regard to quality, reliability, and performance management.

  • PIV- I And Multifactor Authentication: The Best Defense for Federal Government Contractors

    This white paper explores NIST SP 800-171 and why compliance is critical to federal government contractors, especially those that work with the Department of Defense, as well as how leveraging PIV-I credentialing with multifactor authentication can be used as a defense against cyberattacks

  • Toward A More Innovative Government

    This research study aims to understand how state and local leaders regard their agency’s innovation efforts and what they are doing to overcome the challenges they face in successfully implementing these efforts.

  • From Volume to Value: UK’s NHS Digital Provides U.S. Healthcare Agencies A Roadmap For Value-Based Payment Models

    The U.S. healthcare industry is rapidly moving away from traditional fee-for-service models and towards value-based purchasing that reimburses physicians for quality of care in place of frequency of care.

  • GBC Flash Poll: Is Your Agency Safe?

    Federal leaders weigh in on the state of information security


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.