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In Reply To Lisa Godin's Crab Corners

Story ID:10025
Written by:Charles Dishno (bio, contact, other stories)
Location:Dillon Montana USA
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Indian Payback..

Montana tribal members begin receiving Cobell settlement checks
HELENA - Some members of Native American tribes in Montana and around the nation have been getting checks on the mail recently; nearly $1 billion is being distributed as part of the settlement of a major class-action suit brought by former Blackfeet Nation banker Elouise Cobell.

In Montana, most check amounts range from a baseline of $869 up to a few thousand dollars.

In Polson, Eagle Bank president Martin Olson said the bank, which is owned by the Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes, received word Friday that the checks would be sent Monday.

And then he learned that it only takes two days for checks to get from Ohio, where they were mailed, to the Flathead Reservation.

"We had a houseful of people cashing checks yesterday," he said Thursday.

His bank provides services to tribal members that many others do not, such as cashing checks for people who do not have accounts. He expected a large demand and secured extra cash in anticipation.

As it turned out, the bank still had to hit up other banks for funds, and the tellers barely got a break all day Wednesday, with a line in the lobby 10 or 15 strong all day.

He said about $647,000 was distributed to about 500 people.

The settlement is compensation for generations of federal mismanagement of Native American trust assets, such as land and mining claims, belonging to tribes and tribal members.

It is one of the largest class-action lawsuits in American history, affecting hundreds of thousands of people with possibly 30,000 potential beneficiaries still not located by settlement masters.

The government and the plaintiffs settled the case for $3.4 billion, including funds for tribes to buy back land. Legislation sealing the settlement was signed by President Barack Obama in 2010.

As many as 20,000 Montanans could be receiving funds.

Cobell died from complications of cancer in October 2011 in Great Falls at the age of 65.

For more information, visit the Indian Trust website.