Judge gives final o.k. to $3.4 billion Indian lawsuit settlement

Reuters News
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Posted: Jun 22, 2011 2:04 PM
Judge gives final o.k. to $3.4 billion Indian lawsuit settlement

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A $3.4 billion settlement in a class-action lawsuit for American Indians has received final approval from a federal judge.

District Judge Thomas Hogan on Monday approved the settlement for Cobell v. Salazar which found the Department of Interior mismanaged lands held in trust on behalf of Native Americans.

The suit was originally settled in December 2009 and then approved by Congress last November.

The judge's approval will allow hundreds of thousands of Native Americans who had Individual Indian Money accounts, an interest in trust, or restricted land managed by the Interior Department to receive payments of at least $1,000 each, said a statement released by Interior late on Monday.

Parts of the settlement will go toward buying interest in trust lands and a scholarship fund.

"The Cobell settlement not only resolves the contentious 15-year litigation, but also honorably and responsibly turns the page on an unfortunate chapter in the Department's history, demonstrating President Obama's commitment to reconciliation and empowerment for American Indian nations," Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said in the statement.

(Reporting by Wendell Marsh and Mary O'Toole; Editing by Jerry Norton)