(CN) – The U.S. government agreed Tuesday to pay $1 billion to settle 41 Native American tribes’ claims that it mismanaged their monetary assets and natural resources held in trust.
Justice Department officials say they have been negotiating the deal for 22 months.
“These settlements resolve claims dating back more than 100 years and will bring to an end protracted litigation that has burdened both the plaintiffs and the United States,” the Justice Department said in a statement. “Ending these long-running disputes about the United States’ management of trust funds and non-monetary trust resources will allow the United States and the tribes to move beyond the distrust exacerbated by years of litigation. These settlement agreements represent a significant milestone in the improvement of the United States’ relationship with Indian tribes.”
The Department of the Interior manages nearly 56 million acres of trust lands for federally recognized tribes, according to the statement. Those lands are subject to more than 100,000 leases for uses such as housing and timber harvesting. The department also manages about 2,500 tribal trust accounts for more than 250 tribes.
“With monies from the congressionally appropriated judgment fund, which is used to pay settlements or final judgments against the government, the United States will compensate the tribes for their breach of trust claims, and the tribes will waive, release and dismiss their claims with prejudice,” according to the DOJ. “The parties have agreed to information sharing procedures that will strengthen the management of trust assets and improve communications between tribes and the Department of the Interior. The settlement agreements also include dispute resolution provisions to reduce the likelihood of future litigation.”
The total settlement amount is approximately $1.023 billion, and the 41 tribes are the Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes of the Fort Peck Reservation; the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians; the Blackfeet Tribe; the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa Indians; the Cachil Dehe Band of Wintun Indians of Colusa Rancheria; the Coeur d’Alene Tribe; the Chippewa Cree Tribe of the Rocky Boy’s Reservation; the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation; the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes; the Confederated Tribes of the Siletz Reservation; the Hualapai Tribe; the Kaibab Band of Paiute Indians of Arizona; the Kickapoo Tribe of Kansas; the Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians; the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe Indians; the Makah Tribe of the Makah Reservation; the Mescalero Apache Nation; the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe; the Nez Perce Tribe; the Nooksack Tribe; the Northern Cheyenne Tribe; the Passamaquoddy Tribe of Maine; the Pawnee Nation; the Pueblo of Zia; the Quechan Indian Tribe of the Fort Yuma Reservation; the Rincon Luiseño Band of Indians; the Round Valley Tribes; the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community; the Santee Sioux Tribe; the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes of the Fort Hall Reservation; the Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians; the Spirit Lake Dakotah Nation; the Spokane Tribe; the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe of the Fort Yates Reservation; the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community; the Te-Moak Tribe of Western Shoshone Indians; the Tohono O’odham Nation; the Tulalip Tribe; the Tule River Tribe; the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe; and the Ute Tribe of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation.