For decades, the Wind River Tribes have accused the Department of Interior of mismanaging mineral royalties for the two tribes, the Shoshone and Arapaho.
On Monday, the Federal Court of Appeals reinstated the tribe’s claim, originally filed in 1979, reported Wyoming Public Media.
While most of the tribe’s claims have been settled, one glaring gap remains involving oil and gas leases first established in the early 1900s.
The Interior allegedly managed those leases, illegally turning them into new leases in the 1930s. The tribe asserts the leases are void, since the Department violated its own rules. Therefore, the tribes are owed money for them. But the federal court contends the tribes filed the claim too late. They can only collect damages from six years prior to the original suit filed in 1979, reported Wyoming Public Media.
“In an ideal world the department of interior and department of justice go to the tribe and say, ‘Let’s just negotiate this thing, come to a reasonable settlement, and move on with our lives,’” Mathew Fletcher, a professor at Michigan State University College of Law who has been tracking the case, told WPM. “Unfortunately the United States in the last 10 years especially, has not been a good player in these kind of cases. They fight them to the death so you it could be dragged out for several more years again.”