November 22, 2019
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Huge Indian claims settlement won’t benefit Native communities in Maine

PLEASANT POINT, Maine — While the federal government will be paying an array of Native American tribes $3.4 billion as a result of a class-action suit alleging trust fund mismanagement, none of that money is due to the Passamaquoddy or Penobscot nations in Maine.

“This largely involved lands that were taken away decades ago, and it took many years of legal proceedings to come to a settlement,” Passamaquoddy Tribal Governor and Chief Clayton Cleaves said Wednesday. “But the settlement does not affect the 28 tribes east of the Mississippi River.”

The $3.4 billion settlement became final on Nov. 24, following action by the U.S. Supreme Court and expiration of an appeal period. The settlement includes a $1.5 billion fund to be distributed to tribes that made claims of accounting and trust fund and asset mismanagement by the federal government.

The settlement includes a $1.9 billion fund for a land consolidation program that allows for the voluntary sale of individual land interests that were split among owners over successive generations. The lands were divided multiple times, sometimes hundreds or more, diminishing their value and making it difficult to use for tribal agriculture, business development or housing. Up to $60 million of the $1.9 billion fund may be set aside to provide scholarships for American Indians and Alaska Natives to attend college or vocational schools.

“With the settlement now final, we can put years of discord behind us and start a new chapter in our nation-to-nation relationship,” Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said of the settlement. “[The settlement] marks another historic step forward in President Obama’s agenda of reconciliation and empowerment for Indian Country.”

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