The U.S. Government has will pay 17 Native American tribes $492 million after a legal settlement, according to NPR. The payment is meant to make amends for the mismanaging natural of resources and other tribal assets.
The settlement is meant to serve as a compromise between the tribes and the federal government, especially after President Obama promised to restore relations with the Native American community on the campaign trail.
“Few have been ignored by Washington as long as Native Americans, the first Americans. Too often, Washington has paid lip-service to working with tribes,” Obama said in a May 2008 speech.
According to a press release, the settlement resolved over 100 claims that were previously in court and totaled in more than $3.3 billion. Some of these claims against the government went back further than a century.
“Settling these long-standing disputes reflects the Obama Administration’s continued commitment to reconciliation and empowerment for Indian Country,” said Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewel.
Essentially, Native tribes were owed money after selling land to the U.S. government in a series of treaties, some of which go back to the 1800s.
“The U.S. government would say it held the assets in trusts benevolently, for the protection of Indian lands and money,” said Melody McCoy, a staff attorney with the Native American Rights Fund. “The flip side of that is that in exchange, the government was supposed to be a good trustee, and it wasn’t. Land was not managed well. Money and resources were not managed well.”