Written by Devon Boen
The Fort Peck Reservation was abuzz this week thanks to the distribution of per-capita checks to each enrolled Fort Peck Tribal member.
The checks stem from a $75 million settlement reached between the tribes and the federal government over an issue of the government mismanaging tribal trust funds.
The agreement was finalized in February and after several months of consideration, the tribal executive board decided to distribute a portion of the money per-capita in two increments, one of $1,500 and one of $1,000.
The $1,500 was distributed Oct. 2 in Poplar at the Poplar Cultural Center and the lines began forming in the morning and continued to grow throughout the day.
Law enforcement had assault rifles and tear gas in case any violent or volatile situations arose at the distribution.
The settlement is different from the Cobell settlement which specifically dealt with individually allotted trust lands. This particular settlement is centered on tribal lands only.
The other $1,000 will be distributed around Christmas.
There are 13,000 enrolled tribal members and approximately half of them live off the reservation. The total $2,500 per-capita payments come out to $32.5 million, leaving $42.5 million in the tribes’ coffers.
In a press release on the Fort Peck Tribes’ website, it said the settlement was a long time coming, with the suit first having been filed in 2002.
In the release, tribal chairman Floyd Azure weighed in on the importance of reaching the agreement.
“The settlement agreement that the Tribal Executive Board approved today is part of the tribes’ long history of government to government dealings with the federal government. The case we are resolving today addresses a series of wrongs committed by the federal government in the management of the Tribes’ trust assets. We believe that this settlement is an important step forward for the tribes,” Azure said.