The federal government has reached a class action settlement with thousands of American Indians over the mismanagement of tribal lands and other accounts. The initial settlement agreement was reached in 2009 and approved by Congress in 2010, but underwent several appeals before being finalized this week.
According to the original class action lawsuit filed in 1996, the U.S. Department of the Interior failed to properly provide revenue from a trust fund that contained Native American assets managed by the federal government. The lawsuit accused the government of failing to make proper payments and of converting money from the fund for the government’s own use.
As part of the settlement agreement to end the class action case, $1.5 billion will be distributed to individuals who were part of the lawsuit. An additional $1.9 billion will go to a “land consolidation program,” which will allow American Indian landowners to sell a fraction of the land that they own. The program will enable these landowners to receive a greater value for their land than they would otherwise receive while limiting administrative costs for the federal government.