Information on how Native Americans in Arizona can share in the recently approved $3.4 billion settlement of Indian Trust claims will be discussed at a series of meetings beginning next week.
On Monday, Feb. 14, lawyers Keith Harper and Rob Harmala of the Kilpatrick Stockton law firm will meet in Whiteriver with members of the Whiteriver Apache Tribe. The meeting will be held at 10 a.m. in the Council Chambers at 201 E. Walnut.
On Tuesday, Feb. 15 they will meet in Sacaton with the Gila River Indian Community. This meeting will be held at 10:30 a.m. at the Boys and Girls Club, East Valley Sacaton Branch, 116 South Holly.
Later Tuesday they will meet in Scottsdale with members of the Salt River Pima Maricopa Indian Community. This meeting will be held at 6 p.m. at the Salt River Community Building, 1880 N. Longmore Rd.
On Wednesday, Feb. 16, the lawyers will meet at 10 a.m. with the members of the Tohono O'odham Nation in Tucson at the Tohono O'odham San Xavier District Center, 2018 W. San Xavier Rd.
Native Americans whose families have individual Indian money trust accounts or who own individual Indian trust land are welcome to attend the meetings and ask questions about the settlement.
In December. President Obama signed legislation ending the 15-year-old class action lawsuit that Elouise Cobell, of the Blackfeet Nation and other Native Americans filed against the government in 1996.
The settlement acknowledges that the federal government mismanaged individual Indians' trust accounts.
Under the settlement, the federal government is creating create a $1.4 billion Accounting/Trust Administration Fund and a $2 billion Trust Land Consolidation Fund.
The settlement also creates an Indian Education Scholarship fund of up to $60 million to improve access to higher education for Indians.
"The settlement represents a hard-won victory for Native Americans," Ms. Cobell has said. "Our hope is that these meetings and a public awareness campaign we are undertaking will get hundreds of thousands of Native Americans to apply for these funds. It has always been their money and I am delighted we can finally return some of it to them."
"The settlement not only rights a tremendous wrong to Indian Country, but it will be a significant help to many Indians," Ms. Cobell has said.