PLEASANT POINT, Maine — A $10.2 million settlement recently paid by the U.S. Department of the Interior to the Passamaquoddy tribe in Washington County will be distributed equally among approximately 3,500 tribal members, with checks going out later this week.
That’s roughly $2,900 and change per recipient, funds that are being disbursed after a six-year legal battle over claims of federal mismanagement of tribal assets. The total award was $11.4 million, but after legal expenses was diluted to $10.2 million.
The funds being shared among tribal members were recently awarded as a settlement of a lawsuit claiming asset mismanagement that was filed in 2006 by 60 Native American tribes from throughout the United States.
Among the Passamaquoddy assets was $13.5 million in federal funds allocated to the tribe in 1980 through the Maine Indian Claims Settlement Act, which was settled for $81.5 million.
Petitions had been circulating for months throughout the Washington County tribal communities of Indian Township and Pleasant Point, calling for equal distribution of 100 percent of the funds to those who meet the lineage, age and residency requirements used in compiling the tribe’s official census.
Passamaquoddy Tribal Governor and Chief Clayton Cleaves said Tuesday that more than 100 tribal members attended a meeting Monday night to discuss how to allocate the funds.
“The meeting wasn’t contentious, but there was debate about investing the funds locally versus allocating it as a family subsidy,” Cleaves said. “In the end, there was a motion made to divide 100 percent of the funds, and we expect that checks will be issued by Friday of this week.”
The current Passamaquoddy census shows 3,475 tribal members, including 1,369 at the Indian Township reservation and 2,106 at the Pleasant Point reservation, according to the tribe’s website.
Of the total awarded in the Claims Settlement Act, $54 million was spent to buy 300,000 acres of land in northern and eastern Maine. The Passamaquoddy and Penobscot tribes split $27 million, and much of the Passamaquoddy funds were invested in gold in 1991 and 1992.