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Navajos, Feds Settle Legal Claims for Record $554M

PHOTO: The Navajo Nation has settled longstanding legal claims against the U.S. government for a record $554 million. Photo credit: Federal Emergency Management Agency.
PHOTO: The Navajo Nation has settled longstanding legal claims against the U.S. government for a record $554 million. Photo credit: Federal Emergency Management Agency.
September 25, 2014

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. – The Obama administration is paying a record $554 million to settle legal issues with the Navajo Nation over claims that the U.S. government mismanaged the tribe's money and natural resources for decades.

Rick Abasta, communications director with the Navajo Nation, says the settlement is about more than money in that it helps to rebuild a wounded relationship.

"Well yes, I think this would be a good step towards establishing a solid relationship between the two governments, and to build upon that for our future generation," he states.

Abasta says Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly is planning a series of town hall meetings to gather public input as to what to do with the money.

He says the money could very well be placed into a trust fund that would generate revenue to help fund various projects.

The 15 million acre Navajo Nation, the nation's largest in terms of land size, stretches across portions of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.

Most of the land is held in trust by the U.S. government, which handles the leasing for oil, gas and other mineral extraction, as well as for farming and grazing.

Wyn Hornbuckle, a spokesman for the U.S. Justice Department, says a top priority of the Obama administration has been to settle legal disputes with tribes all over the country.

"The federal government has focused considerable efforts on the remaining tribal-trust accounting and trust-mismanagement cases and has been able to resolve these claims without the need for more litigation for almost an additional 40 tribes,” he explains. “So that's a total of 80 tribes, and a total of over $2.5 billion."

Hornbuckle points out the settlement with the Navajo Nation is the biggest ever paid to a single tribe by the government to resolve a land trust dispute.

A ceremonial signing of the settlement agreement is scheduled for Friday in the Navajo Nation capital, Window Rock, Arizona.


Troy Wilde, Public News Service - NV