President Barack Obama signed the $4.55 billion Cobell Settlement yesterday, Dec. 8, 2010, paying long overdue justice to Native American and black farmers who claim they were denied federal government loans and royalties from use of natural resources.
At the White House signing ceremony, Obama told the Washington Post, “It’s finally time to make things right.”
The approval of the Cobell v. Salazar suit, filed nearly 15 years ago, “isn’t simply a matter of making amends, it’s about reaffirming our values on which this nation was founded: the principles of fairness and equality and opportunity,” Obama said.
The bill offers $3.4 billion to Indian tribes for previous royalties from oil, gas, grazing and timber taken from their lands since 1887.
African-American farmers, who claim unfair denial of federal loans and other assistance, will receive $1.15 billion.
The measure settles a pair of long-standing class-action lawsuits and four disputes over Native American water rights in Arizona, New Mexico and Montana.
Elouise Cobell, lead plaintiff and Blackfeet Tribal member from Browning, Mont., was moved to tears by the signing of the settlement into law, which she did not expect to happen in her lifetime, she said.