Tribes Start Petition After Delays In Settlement Pay

Friday, May 9th 2014, 7:30 pm

By: News 9

Tribes across the state are fighting to receive payment for their lands, promised to them in a federal settlement worth billions. Many say they were promised the money last year, but never received it.

The settlement stems from a class action lawsuit over government mismanagement of tribal lands and accounts. It involves Native Americans throughout the country.

Congress passed the Claims Resolution Act of 2010 and President Barack Obama signed the legislation, which provided $3.4 billion for the settlement of the Cobell v. Salazar class-action trust case.

"That's not your money, it's our money, and we want to be paid now," said Katherine Ware-Perosi, owner of Indian Country Land Service LLC in Anadarko.

"This settlement is for all the Native Americans who were mistreated. So we feel that the attorneys are getting rich off of this settlement and putting us on the backburner."

Perosi and others made posters and organizers multiple rallies hoping to speed up the payment disbursement.

In the suit, $1.4 billion of the settlement was allocated to the plaintiffs and up to $2 billion is for the re-purchase of lands distributed under the Dawes Act of 1887.

"It's just been too long for our Indian people to have to beg, to have to want," said Marcy Davilla, a full-blooded Kiowa, who says she's been waiting all her life to reap the value of her family's land.

So Perosi, Davilla's daughter since her parent's passed away, started a petition. She says the land owners have only received about $1,000 so far, with no word on what's next.

"Some of the people get over $600,000 to $400,000," Perosi said.

She says each month, their awarded amounts drop according to their Individual Indian Money (IIM) accounts.

"Some have lost $6,000, $4,000, $3,000. I get a small amount and have already lost $400," Perosi said.

It's too much lost for the 1,000 acres Wichita Indian Leslie Standing says his family owns.

"We gave up a lot of land from Texas to Wichita, Kan. and for what? A dollar and a quarter an acre?" Standing said incredulously.

He says much of the Indian land in Anadarko is due a lot of oil and gas royalties from the settlement.

"If you don't live in this type of environment, you'll never know what goes on, sitting here waiting and waiting and waiting," Standing said.

A big waiting game they're tired of playing, as tribe elders want to pass down their inheritance before it's too late.

"It's just been too long for our Indian people. We have lost so many," Davilla said. "I think it's time that someone stand up to the government, to the lawyers and to the judge, let him have a heart for us."

Garden City Group, Inc. is the claims administrator for case. News9 contacted them, but have not yet heard back on when the settlement money will be paid.

Perosi said she along with many mailed letters this week to President Obama hoping for a response.

Learn more about how you can join in on the petition.


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