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Cobell lawsuit could bring $8 million to area

Nov 28, 2012 - Staff and wire reports

Enrolled Arapaho and Shoshone tribal members in Fremont County could start receiving their shares of the historic Cobell lawsuit settlement within a few days.

The settlement could bring a local economic boom in the $6 million to $8 million range.

After nearly 17 years of courtroom arguments, congressional negotiations and Indian Country bickering, hundreds of thousands of American Indians could see the first payments of a $3.4 billion U.S. government settlement in December.

The settlement between American Indians across the nation and the government over more than a century's worth of squandered and mismanaged land trust royalties became final on Friday, when the appeal period expired.

One of the largest U.S. government settlements in history began with a lawsuit filed in 1996 by Elouise Cobell of Browning, Mont. The Blackfeet leader observed that those who leased Indian land made money from its natural resources, while the Indians themselves remained in poverty with no accounting of the royalties from that land that were held in trust for them by the government

Cobell herself led the fight against the government for more than 15 years before she died of cancer last year.

Approximately 350,000 beneficiaries could start receiving $1,000 checks by Christmas as the first part of the settlement goes forward, plaintiffs' attorneys said.It is estimated that there are as many as 8,000 potential beneficiaries on the Wind River reservation and surrounding areas in Wyoming.

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