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Oil Lawsuit Settlement Gives Navajo Nation $554M

September 30th, 2014

An eight-year battle between the U.S. government and the Navajo Native American Nation concluded when the two parties reached a $554 million oil lawsuit settlement. The suit stems from allegations that federal authorities failed to handle the proceeds from leases the Navajo Nation issued for the use of nearly 14 million acres of lands under its control. The oil lawsuit settlement also includes funds from the tribe’s leases for mineral rights, cattle grazing and timber harvesting.

Biggest Oil Lawsuit Settlement In Tribal History

The $554 million oil lawsuit settlement represents the largest payment the federal government has ever paid to a single Native American tribe. The payment is also one among many made by the federal government in oil lawsuit settlements to Native American tribes in recent years. In April 2012, the government settled with more than 40 tribes for a total of $1 billion. Another 40 tribes have received nearly $1.5 billion since then as compensation for the government’s mismanagement of their funds.

Oil Lawsuit Settlement Represents “A Way Forward”

Ben Shelly, president of the Navajo Nation, stated that the oil lawsuit settlement would represent a “way forward” for the tribe. The Navajo Nation is has the highest population of any Native American tribe in the U.S., with more than 300,000 members living on 27,000 square miles of reservation territory. Mr. Shelly told reporters that the funds will help tribal members “stand on our own and rely less on the federal government” while also stressing that the funds would be earning interest “in our bank”.

Oil Lawsuit Settlement May Improve Relations

After nearly two hundred years of broken promises and discarded treaties, the oil lawsuit settlement represents a step toward improving relations between the federal government and Native American Nations. Although the funds from the oil lawsuit settlement do not represent the full level of compensation owed to the tribe, attorneys for the Navajo Nation have agreed not to pursue further litigation against the government. The settlement also represents part of President Obama’s stated agenda to deal with Native Americans as equal nations, according to Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell.

Source: AZCentral

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