Turk Cobell Accepts Presidential Medal of Freedom on Behalf of His Mother, Eloiuse Cobell

Turk Cobell acknowledging his mother with a kiss upward.

Turk Cobell acknowledging his mother with a kiss upward.

Published November 23, 2016

WASHINGTON — Turk Cobell accepted the Presidential Medal of Freedom on behalf of his late mother Elouise Cobell from President Barack Obama at in the East Room of the White House on Tuesday, November 22, 2016.

After he received the award, Cobell walked back to his seat and blew a kiss upward in honor of his mother.

“Her lifelong quest to address the mismanagement of American Indian lands and resources, trust funds wasn’t special treatment, but the equal treatment at the heart of the America promise. She fought for almost 15 years across three presidents, seven trials, ten appearances before a Federal Appeals court, all the while she traveled the country some 40 weeks a year telling the story of her people. In the end, this graduate of a one-room schoolhouse became a MacArthur Genius. She was a proud daughter of Montana’s Blackfeet Nation and reached ultimately a historic victory for all Native Americans through sheer force of will and a belief that the truth will win out. Eloise Cobell overcame the longest odds reminding us that fighting for what is right is always worth it,” said the President about Cobell.

Cobell had passed away on Oct. 16, 2011, at 65 years of age from cancer.

The late Elouise Cobell met President Obama in Oval Office of the White House

The late Elouise Cobell met President Obama in Oval Office of the White House

The Blackfeet community leader spent nearly 15 years advancing a class-action lawsuit on behalf of 500,000 Indians against the Interior Department. The lawsuit claimed that the Interior Department had stolen or squandered billions of dollars in royalties owed to individual tribal members in exchange for oil, gas and other leases.

“I am grateful to President Obama for including my mother among those chosen for this great honor.  If she were alive, I know she would say ‘this is not an award just for me, but for all Native People. She also would point out that without the support of the many thousands of people whose lands and money were mismanaged by the government she could not have won her lawsuit. Her victory was truly a long and hard-won struggle for those individuals and for her. Her honor today is another acknowledgment by the president she so admired that Native Americans are an essential part of the fabric of America. I know this day would have brought a wonderful smile to her face and a sparkle to her eyes. The Cobell family is deeply touched by the President’s action,” Turk Cobell said in a statement released after the White House announced his mother was a recipient.


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