The late Elouise Cobell met President Obama in Oval Office of the White House
SEATTLE — The Garden City Group, Inc. (Garden City) and Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton, announced that the first checks were mailed yesterday, Monday, September 15, to the Trust Administration Class in the Cobell Indian Trust Settlement.
On August 30, 2014, the Interior Department provided the data to Garden City, the firm Court-appointed to administer the Settlement, for the payments and on September 11, The United States District Court for the District of Columbia entered an Order approving plaintiffs’ unopposed motion to begin distribution of nearly$950 million. This was the final approval needed to commence payment of the Trust Administration portion of settlement funds to Class Members.
“Garden City is sending checks to Trust Administration Class Members where we have a current address beginning today,” said Jennifer Keough, Chief Operating Officer, Garden City. “Checks may take five to seven days to reach Class Members once they have been mailed.”
The Cobell Settlement is the largest class action settlement against the federal government. Filed in 1996 by the late Elouise Cobell and other Native American leaders, it sought an accounting of the individual Indian trust accounts and reform of the trust system, which had been mismanaged for over a century.
Once the case settled, counsel for the Plaintiffs, Bill Dorris and David Smith of Kilpatrick Townsend, and Garden City were tasked with distributing funds to 500,000 individual Indian beneficiaries across the country. However, the records from the Department of Interior reflected decades of neglect.
As David Smith, Counsel for the Cobell Plaintiffs in the Washington, DC office of Kilpatrick Townsendexplained, “There were insufficient or absolutely no addresses for over 315,000 class members, 22,000 individuals Interior listed as alive were deceased, over 1,200 Interior listed as deceased we found were still alive, and there were thousands of whom Interior had no record at all. But it was important that Elouise Cobell’s legacy be fulfilled and that class members receive the money to which they were entitled under the Settlement. By working closely with tribes, associations, and individual Indians across the country we were able, in just over a year and a half, to fix trust records that had not been adequately addressed by the federal government for generations.”