Cobell Settlement Not Perfect

As stated on Monday, the settlement of the Cobell lawsuit provides just a financial pittance of what is owed to the eligible Cobell class members.   Each person impacted by the settlement stands to gain a one-time payout of around $1,000.  While I am sure this will be a welcome financial boost for many families, it makes me sad to consider what the mismanagement of the trust lands actually cost individual Native Americans and Native communities.  It is impossible to estimate lost opportunity.  But if the missing $176 billion dollars had been put to work building infrastructure, supporting medical care, and providing a culturally relevant education, it is easy to imagine that the living conditions on many reservations may be different today.

After the U.S. federal judge approved the Cobell settlement on Tuesday, Elouise Cobell, the lead plaintiff in the case, made the statement, “The settlement isn’t perfect.  I do not think it compensates for all the losses sustained, but I do think it is fair and it is reasonable.”  In his announcement of the decision, Judge Hogan also noted that the settlement could not make up for the losses Native Americans have faced for years, but that it does at least provide some certainty to people who receive the funds.  There is a general understanding that the financial compensation Native Americans will receive from the settlement is not proportionate to their loss, yet the settlement is an important victory.

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