Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Rehberg votes against Native water rights, Herseth Sandlin upholds them

Funding intended to settle the lawsuit citing endemic mismanagement of Native American land trusts at the US Department of Interior is headed for President Obama's signature.

From the Billings Gazette:

In a 256-152 vote, the House approved the Claims Settlement Act of 2010 that resolves a class action lawsuit brought by American Indians who alleged that the Department of Interior mismanaged trust accounts for more than 300,000 Indians — 33,600 of them in Montana.  The act included $3.4 billion to settle the lawsuit initiated 14 years ago by Elouise Cobell, a member of Montana's Blackfeet Tribe.  The Claims Act also approved $1 billion to resolve Indian water rights cases across the nation. Of that, $461 million will go to the Crow Tribe to implement a water rights compact with the state of Montana and fund water projects throughout the southeast Montana reservation.  Montana's lone representative in the U.S. House, Republican Denny Rehberg, voted against the act, explaining that, while the cause may commendable, he could not support spending for the multibillion-dollar bill.  Cobell, in a statement from Browning, said passage of the act was a “landmark milestone to justice for native people.  This is truly an historic day in Indian Country as well as in American history,” she said. “By Congress placing a seal of approval on this settlement, a monumental step has been taken to remove a stain on our national honor, and create a better future for Indians as our government begins to make some amends for grave past injustices.”
Mary Garrigan at the Rapid City Journal quotes Deputy Interior Secretary David Hayes:

The Cobell settlement contains "no forced requirements for folks with fractionated interests to sell their land," but it does contain incentives for them to do so, Hayes said.  One of those incentives is $60 million for a scholarship fund for low-income Native American college students. In addition to being paid for the land, the Interior Department will make a donation to that fund whenever a landowner participates in the consolidation program.  "We believe this combination will make this a very attractive program," Hayes said. But even $1.9 billion will buy only a percentage of those fractionated interests, so the Interior Department plans to focus on specific tracts. Decisions about which trust land to consolidate first will be made in consultation with tribal governments, he said.

South Dakota's turned-out Democratic Representative Stephanie Herseth Sandlin has been a strong voice for the bill. She recently spoke to the Mitchell Republic.

Maybe it's a good time to consider Statehood for reservations. Montana's Crow and South Dakota's Cheyenne River Sioux, whose tribal Chairman Joseph Brings Plenty opposed the settlement, are historic enemies. Looks like a job for democracy.

No comments:

Post a Comment