The check is in the mail, is the latest expression in regards to the Cobell settlement funds to class members and for some it’s already been cashed.
On September 15, the Garden City Group, Inc. and Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton, made the announcement that the first checks were finally mailed out to the Trust Administration Class in the Cobell Indian Trust Settlement according to a press release from Garden City.
The Department of the Interior released the data to Garden City, the firm court-appointed to administer the settlement, on August 30. Then 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.”
The order was the final step to commence payment to the second round of class members.
Senator John Walsh (D-MT), who in April conveyed a deep concern about the ongoing delays in payments released a statement on September 18, “Although still decades too late, the recent Cobell Settlement payments marks a step in the right direction to right a wrong. I will continue to fight to ensure the federal government adequately meets the trust obligations we owe our tribal nations. Today, we all should be grateful for the leadership of fellow Montanan Elouise Cobell.”
The $3.4 billion settlement includes $1.5 billion split in two classes for hundreds of thousands of beneficiaries according to the Rapid City Journal. The first class payments of $1,000 began being mailed to beneficiaries in December 2012 with the second round of payments originally aimed to be mailed out in the fall of 2013 as reported by ICTMN in March of 2013.
“Garden City is sending checks to Trust Administration Class Members where we have a current address,” said Jennifer Keough, Chief Operating Officer, Garden City. “Checks may take five to seven days to reach Class Members once they have been mailed.”
For some, checks are already being received, as the Billings Gazette has reported checks of at least $800 have reached the Crow Agency as of Wednesday.
The largest class action settlement against the federal government to date has seen many delays in the check mailing process since it was settled in 2010. Part of the delay was due to decades of neglect by the Department of the Interior when it came to the records of class members – 500,000 individual Indian beneficiaries throughout Indian country. Counsel for the Plaintiffs, Bill Dorris and David Smith of Kilpatrick Townsend, and Garden City were given the task of distributing payments.
“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.”
For more information, please visit www.indiantrust.com.