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Second set of Cobell payments on its way

Jan 16, 2014 - By Alejandra Silva, Staff Writer

The second set of payments from the Cobell Settlement is due to be distributed to members of the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes within a few weeks.

The claims administrator of the settlement, The Garden City Group, said more than 6,000 enrolled tribal members in Wyoming belong to the second group, also known as the Trust Administration Class.

"The minimum award that class members will receive is estimated at $800," said Lori Castaneda, GCG vice president of operations, in an e-mail. "The total award for the 6,728 Trust Administration Class Members is over $10 million."

Most fully-enrolled tribal members reportedly have been told to expect awards from $8,000 (Arapaho) to $13,000 (Shoshone) apiece. The total cash infusion to the Fremont County economy could reach $100 million.

No specific date for the payment has been announced.

Funds owed

Elouise Cobell was the lead plaintiff in the Indian Trust Settlement that aimed to bring justice for the trust funds, assets and tribal land held by the federal government and mishandled by the U.S. Department of the Interior and the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

After more than a decade of litigation, an initial settlement agreement was decided on in 2009, and in 2010, President Barack Obama signed off on the distribution of $3.4 billion for tribes across the United States. After several deadlines approached and appeals were filed, settlement funds were divided into two groups, and the first checks arrived to recipients on the Wind River Indian Reservation in December 2012. More than 4,000 enrolled tribal members in Wyoming received $1,000 checks in the mail or deposited directly to their Individual Indian Money accounts.

Recent updates on the settlement's website state a majority of the members in the Trust Administration Class have been identified and payments are being calculated. More than 500,000 enrolled tribal members belong to this class in the United States, and in about month, once those calculations are finalized, the court must approve the distribution and recipients can receive checks within weeks after that.

Money still is owed to some members with IIM accounts because information was missing, Castaneda said.

"There are almost 400 people on the 'Whereabouts Unknown' list from Wyoming tribes and an additional 650 people where GCG doesn't have an address," she said.

GCG is asking all class members to help identify people in the WAU list through the Office of Special Trustee's website.

"This is a list of persons who the OST does not have current address information and therefore GCG does not have contact information," Castaneda said.

The OST list can be searched at www.doi.gov.

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