The court-ordered process of notifying individual Indians of their legal rights in the $3.4 billion class action settlement, Cobell v. Salazar, is coming to a close. The Settlement resolves claims related to Individual Indian Money (IIM) accounts and interests in land held in trust or restricted fee by the federal government for the benefit of individual Indians.
Class members who received a formal notice in the mail about the settlement and who are currently receiving IIM account statements do not have to do anything to receive payment. Individuals who believe they should be part of the settlement but did not receive a notice in the mail or are not receiving IIM account statements need to fill out a claim form as soon as possible, available at the Indian Trust website or by calling the toll-free number.
Class members who wish to keep their right to sue the federal government over mismanagement claims covered by the settlement must exclude themselves from the settlement by April 20, 2011. Class members can also submit written comments or objections about any settlement terms that concern them by April 20, 2011.
The settlement provides a $1.5 billion fund to compensate an estimated 500,000 affected individual Indian trust beneficiaries who have or had IIM accounts or hold an interest in trust or restricted land. The settlement creates two groups of class members eligible to receive money from the fund—the Historical Accounting Class and the Trust Administration Class.
•The Historical Accounting Class comprises individual Indians who were alive on September 30, 2009, who had an open IIM account anytime between Oct. 25, 1994 and Sept. 30, 2009, and whose account had at least one cash transaction.
•The Trust Administration Class comprises individual Indians alive on Sept. 30, 2009, who had an IIM Account at any time from 1985 through Sept. 30, 2009, recorded in currently available electronic data in federal government systems, as well as individual Indians who, as of Sept. 30, 2009, had a recorded or demonstrable interest in land held in trust or restricted status.
•The estates of deceased class members will also receive a settlement distribution if the deceased beneficiary’s account was open as of Sept. 30, 2009, or their land interest was open in probate as of that date. Other eligibility conditions and requirements for each Class are detailed in the Settlement Agreement.
Under the settlement agreement, $1.9 billion will fund a department of the Interior program to buy fractionated interests in trust or restricted land from willing sellers to benefit tribal communities and aid in land consolidation. Depending on the level of participation in the land consolidation program, up to $60 million will be set aside to provide scholarships for higher education for American Indian and Alaska Native youth.
Call toll-free 1-800-961-6109 or visit www.IndianTrust.com and toll-free number for more information.