GRIC among 17 tribes to receive $492 million settlement from U.S. government

October 7, 2016


Thomas R. Throssell

Gila River Indian News


The United States government has agreed to pay 17 tribal governments, including the Gila River Indian Community, a total of $492.8 million for mismanaging natural resources and monetary assets held in trust for the benefit of those tribes.


The 17 tribes claimed they potentially lost years of income because the Department of the Interior and Department of the Treasury did not manage the land, money, and resources well and, in effect, did not meet the initial agreements made to make sure tribes received proper compensation.


While most of the 17 settlements have yet to receive final court approval, documents were released identifying several of the tribes involved.


According to reports from the Washington Post and National Public Radio, several of the tribal governments named in the settlement are the Gila River Indian Community, Colorado River Indian Tribes, San Carlos Apache Tribe, White Earth Nation, Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation, and the Muscogee Creek Nation.


The Washington Post reported the settlements have a wide margin of variation, ranging from $25,000 to $45 million. Money from the settlements will be directly transferred to tribal governments from the U.S. Treasury and have no stipulations on how funds are to be used.


In 2012, the U.S. government made similar agreements with 41 tribes to the tune of $1 billion, which included the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community and Tohono O’odham Nation.


U.S. Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch and Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewel announced in a recent Department of Justice news release that the settlement is part of the Obama Administration’s commitment to reconciliation and empowerment of Indian Country.


The news release said that with the recent agreement, the Obama Administration has resolved most of Indian Country’s outstanding claims, some of which are over 100 years old, include over 100 tribes, and totals $3.3 billion in settlements between the U.S., American Indian individuals and tribal governments.


Lynch said in the news release, “These historical grievances were a barrier to our shared progress toward a brighter future. With today’s announcement, those barriers have been removed and decades of contention have been ended honorably and fairly.”


Secretary Jewell added, “As we turn the page on past challenges in our government-to-government relationship with tribes, we’re moving forward with tribal governments to ensure proper management of tribal trust assets. I commend the Department of Justice, our Interior Solicitors, tribal leaders and other key officials for recognizing the importance of communication and mutual respect, opening a new era of trust between the United States Government and tribal governments.”


The Department of Interior manages over 100,000 leases on 56 million acres of trust lands on behalf of over 250 federally recognized tribes.