Native American Tribes Finally Getting Lawsuits Settled, But is it Enough?

It only took over a century, but the United States government is finally planning to settle major lawsuits with 17 Native American tribes. A recent statement released by the Departments of the Interior and Justice says these groups will be receiving $492 million soon to end litigation.

What legal grievances were leveled in these suits, some of which date back to the 1800s? For roughly the last 150 years, a number of treaties and deals were made with Native American tribes in which the U.S. government purchased land and resources. Many of these dealt with the creation of trusts, in which the government promised it would oversee and administer the use of these lands.

According to these deals, the government promised that by holding these lands as trusts, they would be doing so “for the protection of Indian lands and money.”

For these deals, it was stipulated that the tribes would be given “just compensation” from the government, but in many cases this did not happen.

This encompassed 55 million acres of tribal lands used for a variety of purposes including timber cutting and fossil fuel pumping and drilling.

In other situations, land was bought outright — but the Native American individuals and tribes involved went without paying in full. In short, through a bevy of contracts with Native Americans, the U.S. government has been making use of huge amounts of land at no cost.

Perhaps worse of all has been the clear failure on the government’s part to properly care for these lands, even after swindling Native Americans out of their due payment. Some of these lawsuits alleged that not only were Native Americans underpaid for their properties, but that the “money and resources were not managed well” by the government.

A number of suits filed by individual Native Americans were settled in 2009, resulting in a $3.4 billion payout.

This, however, had not addressed the more complex lawsuits filed by tribal groups. Though final approval is still pending, it looks as though these will finally be addressed and settled soon — 95, in total.

It is hard to say this wasn’t a very, very long time coming.

More importantly, could this give the U.S. government a chance, for the first time in its history, to finally begin treating Native Americans with the dignity and respect they so rightly deserve?

It cracks the door open to the possibility, undoubtedly. Unfortunately, a quick look at recent events suggests this becoming the norm is far from being realized.

Right now, as has been reported by Care2, a portion of the Trail of Tears in Tennessee was, in violation of federal law, torn up by contractors hired by the U.S. Forest Service two years ago. Though the damage was discovered last year, the responsible party was only revealed in September.

The Trail of Tears is the name given to one of the most shameful moments in U.S. history — the death march a number of eastern and southern Native American tribes were forced to walk at gunpoint, a process that left many thousands dead.

Right now, thousands of Native Americans and their allies are in North Dakota at Standing Rock to protest the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, slated to pass through sacred Sioux lands — already, ancient burial sites have been dug up by construction crews.

Numerous reports have also come out of demonstrators being violently attacked by private security forces, leaving many wondering where the U.S. government is to protect these people.

Maybe the U.S. government thinks throwing money at Native American tribes fixes centuries of genocide and mistreatment. It is not enough, though — since a way to fix the past doesn’t exist, it is paramount that the present and future are absent of any further misdeeds.

Photo Credit: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration / Wikimedia Commons

128 comments

Marie W.
Marie Wabout a year ago

Lies. and more lies.

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Anne F.
Anne Fabout a year ago

yes, fix the treaties. Then provide compensation for the failure to exercise trust responsibility competently. Then respect tribal sovereignty. this adds up to truth and reconciliation

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Lisa V.
Lisa Vabout a year ago

It is a start, but our government could not possibly fully compensate these folks for centuries of lies and broken promises.

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Wendi M.
Wendi Mabout a year ago

TYFS

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Toni W.
Toni Wabout a year ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Toni W.
Toni Wabout a year ago

No amount of money will ever compensate for the wrong doings!

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Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallusabout a year ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Joanne p.
Joanne pabout a year ago

Ty

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Joanne p.
Joanne pabout a year ago

Ty

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Sam Dyson
Past Member about a year ago

Ty

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