US agrees $1 billion tribal lawsuits settlement

US agrees $1 billion tribal lawsuits settlement

The US government has agreed to pay more than $1 billion to 40 Native American tribes to settle lawsuits over federal use of their lands and assets, the Department of Justice said Wednesday.

The $1.023 billion settlement with 41 tribes resolves claims dating back more than 100 years, the agency said in announcing the deal led by Attorney General Eric Holder and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.

The announcement follows 22-month negotiations between the tribes and the federal government, “and will bring to an end protracted litigation that has burdened both the plaintiffs and the United States,” the Department of Justice said in a statement.

The financial settlement will be paid from the congressionally-appropriated Judgment Fund, which is used to pay settlements or final judgments against the government.

Salazar said the move “strengthens the government-to-government relationship with tribal nations, helps restore a positive working relationship with Indian Country leaders and empowers American Indian communities.”

The deal notably ends litigation regarding the Department of the Interior’s accounting and management of the tribes’ trust accounts, trust lands and other natural resources.

There was no immediate word from any of the 41 tribes who agreed to the settlement.