U.S., tribes settle trust allegations

April 11, 2012 at 4:02 PM
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WASHINGTON, April 11 (UPI) -- The United States and 41 Indian tribes have reached $1 billion in settlements over allegations trusts set up for the tribes were mismanaged, officials said.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar made the announcement Wednesday after a 22-month negotiation between the tribes and the government.

The settlements with the tribes resolve claims dating back more than 100 years. A Justice Department statement said the settlements "will bring to an end protracted litigation that has burdened both the plaintiffs and the United States. Ending these long-running disputes about the United States' management of trust funds and non-monetary trust resources will allow the United States and the tribes to move beyond the distrust exacerbated by years of litigation. These settlement agreements represent a significant milestone in the improvement of the United States' relationship with Indian tribes."

The U.S. Department of the Interior manages nearly 56 million acres of trust lands for federally recognized tribes and more than 100,000 leases. The leases on the lands cover various uses, including housing, timber harvesting, farming, grazing, oil and gas extraction, business leasing, rights-of-way and easements, the department said.

The Interior Department also manages about 2,500 tribal trust accounts for more than 250 tribes.

Lawyers for many of the tribes wrote to President Obama in 2009 to ask for expedited settlement discussions.

Under the negotiated settlement agreements, litigation involving the Department of Interior's accounting and management of the tribes' trust accounts, trust lands and other natural resources will end.

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