- Associated Press - Monday, September 21, 2015

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - Tribes in the Dakotas are getting about $48 million through a nearly $1 billion settlement between the federal government and tribes across the country over underfunded federal contracts. Tribal colleges in the two states are getting an additional $7 million.

The deal was announced last week by the Interior Department and leaders from the Oglala Sioux Tribe, Zuni Pueblo and Ramah Chapter of the Navajo Nation. It settles a claim that the government failed to adequately compensate tribes while they managed education, law enforcement and other federal services.

The three tribes were among the lead plaintiffs in a class action lawsuit filed in 1990 on behalf of more than 600 tribes and tribal agencies. The U.S. Supreme Court in 2012 ruled in favor of the tribes, but the $940 million settlement still must be approved in federal district court.

In South Dakota, the Oglala Sioux Tribe is getting the most money, at about $12.9 million, according to the settlement agreement.

“We are satisfied with the fine settlement that has been reached here,” Oglala Sioux President John Yellow Bird Steele said in a statement. “Previously they paternalistically shorted us and didn’t give a darn. We are hopeful that we are now entering into a period of mutual cooperation with the Department of the Interior. We hope the settlement clears the air for the future.”

Other South Dakota tribes getting money are: Cheyenne River Sioux, $6.9 million; Rosebud Sioux, $5.4 million; Yankton Sioux, $1.5 million; Lower Brule Sioux, $1.2 million; Crow Creek Sioux, $1 million; and Flandreau Santee Sioux, $876,000.

In North Dakota, the Three Affiliated Tribes is getting the biggest share: just under $8 million. The Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa is getting $2.5 million, and the Spirit Lake Sioux will get $1.2 million.

The Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate, which is in both North Dakota and South Dakota, is getting $2.2 million. The Standing Rock Sioux, also in both states, is getting $4.3 million.

“Any time we can receive a settlement for some wrongs that were being done, it’s quite good news,” Standing Rock Chairman Dave Archbambault II said in an interview. “We’ll take a look if there’s a way to put those funds back toward wherever the tribe pulled the funds from to maintain those programs.”

Tribal colleges in the North Dakota cities of Bismarck, Fort Yates, Belcourt and New Town and in the South Dakota cities of Sisseton, Kyle and Mission also are getting money, ranging from $180,000 to $4.2 million.

Recipients could get the money as early as next year.

“While this settlement is good news for tribal governments and organizations across the country, there is still much work to do to make sure the federal government upholds this nation’s trust responsibility,” said U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, a Democrat from North Dakota and a member of the Senate’s Indian Affairs Committee.


Follow Blake Nicholson on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/NicholsonBlake

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