July 29, 2014

Key deadline approaches in Cobell Settlement

Certain Class Members Must Act by April 20, 2011

Washington, D.C. – March 28, 2011 – The Court-ordered process of notifying individual Indians of their legal rights in the historic $3.4 billion class action Settlement, Cobell v. Salazar, is coming to a close. The Settlement resolves claims related to Individual Indian Money (or IIM) accounts and land held in trust by the federal government for the benefit of individual Indians.

Class Members all over the country have either received detailed information about their legal rights and options via U.S. Mail or through an extensive media campaign, which included Native American print media, television and radio ads, and online advertising.

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 own trust 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 October 25, 1994 and September 30, 2009, and whose account had at least one cash transaction.
·         The Trust Administration Class comprises individual Indians alive on September 30, 2009, who had an IIM Account at any time from 1985 through September 30, 2009, recorded in currently available electronic data in federal government systems, as well as individual Indians who, as of September 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 September 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.

The website www.IndianTrust.com and toll-free number 1-800-961-6109 are available to provide more information about the Settlement and the legal rights of Class Members.  Individuals who are unsure whether they are included in the Settlement should visit the website or call the toll-free number for more information.

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