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Billions for Blackfeet

On Tuesday the Obama administration agreed to pay more than $3 billion to Native American tribes who alleged that the government cheated them out of billions dating back to 1887.  The settlement of the case, called Cobell v. Salazar, marks the biggest government payout to Native Americans in US history. "As a candidate, I heard from many in Indian Country that the Cobell suit remained a stain on the nation-to-nation relationship I value so much," Obama said Tuesday in a written statement.

Back in 2003, political scientist Jacob T. Levy took the government to task in a piece for TNR detailing exactly what was at stake in Cobell:

It's a scandal that crosses partisan lines and reaches into high levels of both the Clinton and the Bush administrations. And it's got nothing to do with Wall Street...The shameful mishandling by the federal government of the Individual Indian Money (IIM) trust fund--created to manage the proceeds from leases of Indian land--encompasses 300,000 accounts and 56 million acres, spans more than 100 years, and involves amounts of money estimated at between 10 and 100 billion dollars.

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