The court-ordered process of notifying individual Indians of their legal rights in the historic $3.4 billion class-action Cobell v. Salazar settlement is coming to a close and key deadlines are quickly approaching.
The settlement provides a $1.5 billion fund to compensate an estimated 500,000 affected individual Indian trust beneficiaries who have or had IIM accounts or hold an interest in trust or restricted land.
There are two groups of class members eligible to receive money from the fund: Historical Accounting Class and Trust Administration Class. The Historical Accounting Class includes individual Indians who were alive on Sept. 30, 2009, who had an open IIM account anytime between Oct. 25, 1994, and Sept. 30, 2009, and whose account had at least one cash transaction.
The Trust Administration Class includes individual Indians alive on Sept. 30, 2009, who had an IIM Account at any time from 1985 through Sept. 30, 2009, recorded in currently available electronic data in federal government systems, as well as individual Indians who, as of Sept. 30, 2009, had a recorded or demonstrable interest in land held in trust or restricted status.
The estates of deceased class members will also receive a settlement distribution if the deceased beneficiary’s account was open as of Sept. 30, 2009, or their land interest was open in probate as of that date.
If you are a class member and have received notification, you need to do nothing more to receive payment. If you have not received notification and believe you should be part of the settlement, you need to submit your claim form as soon as possible at the Indian Trust Web site (www.IndianTrust.com) or by calling 1-800-961-6109.
Class members who wish to keep their right to sue the federal government over mismanagement claims covered by the settlement must exclude themselves from the settlement by April 20, 2011. Class members can also submit written comments or objections about any settlement terms that concern them by April 20, 2011.