The Obama administration has agreed to pay a group of Native American tribes $940 million to settle multi-decade litigation regarding underfunding of law enforcement, education and other federal services on reservations. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and Justice Department officials plan to announce the proposed class-action settlement Thursday along with leaders from the Oglala Sioux Tribe, Zuni Pueblo and Ramah Chapter of the Navajo Nation. The settlement will then be submitted for approval in federal court.
The $940 million proposed payout to the tribes and tribal agencies is part of a trend toward major settlements between tribes and the U.S. in the last five years. "We had been litigating with Indian Country aggressively before the Obama administration came in," Kevin Washburn, head of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, told The Associated Press. "Rather than the federal government and tribes fighting all the time and litigating against one another, we need to be partners looking toward the future."
The contract litigation settlement is the result of a 2012 U.S. Supreme Court decision ruling in favor of the tribes in the long-running dispute over payment allocations for program costs. Tribes argued the U.S. government did not appropriate enough money to cover costs under the agreements, and the underfunded contracts meant tribes faced shortfalls as they tried to meet essential needs in their communities ranging from health services to housing.