Before long, Shoshone and Arapaho tribal members in Wyoming may see payouts from the Indian Trust Settlement. On Tuesday the U-S District Court held a preliminary hearing, and approved the 3-point-4 billion dollar settlement authorized by President Obama earlier this month. Plaintiffs in that long-running suit had accused the federal government of mismanaging nearly 150-billion dollar in royalties owed to Indian landowners under agreements that date to the 1880′s.
Despite that news, Wyoming tribes will have to continue waiting for their own, separate and nearly identical lawsuit to be settled. The Indian Trust Settlement benefits individuals. But a separate lawsuit filed by both the Shoshone and Arapaho tribes alleging that the federal government mismanaged mineral royalties held in trust will benefit the tribes as a whole. Shoshone business council member Orville St. Clair says the lawsuit has proven to be difficult, because documents, many of them more than 100 years old, have disappeared.
“I mean, we will never get the true value,” says St. Clair. “We know that we were not being paid for our oil in a lot of them years, but we could never prove it because there was never any paper trail, because that’s what you need – you need the paper trail, and that’s exactly what happened to Cobell: the documents were missing.”
It is unclear how long the Shoshone and Arapaho lawsuit will languish in court. It’s estimated that between 6 and 8 thousand plaintiffs in the Cobell suit could could receive payments here in Wyoming alone.