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Federal Government Owes $32M in Royalties to 30,000 Indians, Whereabouts Unknown

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The federal government has been unable to locate some 30,000 Indian beneficiaries who are collectively owed about $32 million of the $3.4 billion Cobell trust fund settlement, reported The New York Times.

Despite public service announcements on TV and radio stations, noticed plastered at reservation postal offices, public meetings held on tribal lands, Interior information booths at pow wows, tribal governments searching membership rolls and more, people have proved impossible to locate.

“This is money that should be rightfully paid to the landowners,” said Ervin Chavez, a Navajo beneficiary and volunteer to track down other beneficiaries. “It is something that has been going on for many, many years.”

All beneficiaries are owed at least $800, though some are entitled to significant sums of money. A Cheyenne and Arapaho tribal member is owed about $121,000, while a member of the Quechan Tribe is due more than $81,000.

“Historically, there is no question that the government mismanaged these accounts and should have known where these people were,” David Smith, an attorney who helped handle the settlement, told The New York Times.

Potential Indian beneficiaries should search for their name on the Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians website at