Frequently Asked Questions

BASIC INFORMATION

  1. What is a Class Action?
  2. What are Individual Indian Money ("IIM") accounts?
  3. Who is affected by this Settlement?
  4. What is this lawsuit about?
  5. Why is there a Settlement?

WHO IS IN THE SETTLEMENT?

  1. Who is part of the Settlement?
  2. Are there exceptions to being included?
  3. If I never had an IIM account or my IIM account is now inactive or never existed,
    does this Settlement affect me?
  4. I'm not sure if I'm included in the Settlement.

DETERMINATION LETTERS AND ELIGIBILITY DOCUMENTATION

  1. If I received a first determination letter in May 2013 stating I am not eligible for the Settlement did I need to do anything?
  2. If I received a second determination letter in August 2013 stating I am not eligible for the Settlement, do I need to do anything?
  3. How do I appeal the second determination of my eligibility as a Class Member?
  4. How do I demonstrate that I am an eligible Member of the Trust Administration Class?
  5. How do I demonstrate that I am an Individual Indian Beneficiary?
  6. How do I demonstrate that I had an open IIM account at any time between approximately 1985 to September 30, 2009?
  7. How do I demonstrate that I owned trust land or land in restricted status as of September 30, 2009?
  8. How do I prove that I am an heir to a deceased IIM account holder or individual who owned restricted or trust lands, when the decedent is NOT listed in the DOI's data as a Class Member?
  9. How do I prove that I am an heir to a deceased IIM account holder or individual who owned restricted or trust lands, when the decedent is listed in the DOI's data as a Class Member?
  10. What is a Small Estate Document, and which states were approved for use?
  11. What if I cannot provide documentation such as a probate order or official documentation naming an executor or personal representative of the estate?

THE SETTLEMENT BENEFITS - WHAT YOU GET

  1. What does the Settlement provide?
  2. What is fractionated land?
  3. How much will my payment be if I'm an Accounting Class Member?
  4. How much will my payment be if I'm a Trust Administration Class Member?
  5. How will the Accounting/Trust Administration Fund be distributed?
  6. What happens to any funds left in the Accounting/Trust Administration Fund?
  7. What is the Trust Land Consolidation Fund?
  8. How much money can I get from selling my land?
  9. How can I sell my land?
  10. What happens to land when owners cannot be located?
  11. How long will the Trust Land Consolidation Fund continue?
  12. How will the Indian Education Scholarship Fund work?
  13. How will the Indian Education Scholarship Fund be administered?
  14. How does this Settlement affect Indian trust reform?
  15. Does the Settlement affect my rights or the rights of my tribe to sue the government to get the Black Hills returned?

HOW TO GET A PAYMENT

  1. How can I get a payment?
  2. When will I get my payment?
  3. When will payments be made to estates that are eligible members of the Historical Accounting Class?
  4. Can I still file a claim?
  5. Will claims filed after the March 1, 2013 deadline be considered?
  6. Will requests to reconsider eligibility submitted after the July 1, 2013 deadline be considered?

REMAINING IN THE SETTLEMENT

  1. Do I need to do anything to remain in the Settlement?
  2. What am I giving up as part of the Settlement?

EXCLUDING YOURSELF FROM THE SETTLEMENT

  1. What if I don't want to be in the Settlement?
  2. How do I get out of the Trust Administration Class?

OBJECTING TO OR COMMENTING ON THE SETTLEMENT

  1. How can I object to or comment on the Settlement?
  2. What's the difference between objecting to and excluding myself from the Settlement?

THE LAWYERS REPRESENTING YOU

  1. Do I have a lawyer in the case?
  2. How will the lawyers be paid? Do the Class Representatives get paid extra?

THE COURT'S FAIRNESS HEARING

  1. When and where will the Court decide whether to approve the Settlement?
  2. Did I have to come to the hearing?
  3. Was I allowed to speak at the hearing?

APPEALS

  1. Was an appeal filed?
  2. What are the reasons for the appeals that were filed?
  3. Were these appeals resolved?

GETTING MORE INFORMATION

  1. How do I get more information?

Helpful Hint: Using the general subject of your question may provide the best search results. For example, enter the word "hearing" in the search box to find information about the Settlement's Fairness Hearing.





BASIC INFORMATION

1. What is a Class Action?

In a Class Action, one or more people called "Class Representatives" sue on behalf of themselves and other people who have similar claims and allegations. All of these people are Plaintiffs.

(back to top)

2. What are Individual Indian Money ("IIM") accounts?

IIM accounts primarily contain money collected by the federal government from farming and grazing leases, timber sales, mining, oil and gas production, and other activities on trust land, as well as certain per capita distributions. The funds in IIM accounts are held in trust by the federal government for the benefit of individual Indians.

(back to top)

3. Who is affected by this Settlement?

The Settlement will affect all Class Members (see Who is part of the Settlement?). Class Members include individual Indian trust beneficiaries, which means those individuals who:

  • Had an IIM account anytime from approximately 1985 through September 30, 2009, or
  • Had an individual interest in land held in trust or restricted status by the U.S. government as of September 30, 2009.

The estate of a deceased individual described above whose account was open or in probate status as of September 30, 2009 is included. Probate means you have asked a court to transfer ownership of the landowner's property after he or she died.

This Settlement does not relate to certain historical claims or any future claims of Class Members. It does not relate to claims tribes might have against the federal government.

(back to top)

4. What is this lawsuit about?

The Settlement resolves claims that the federal government violated its trust duties to individual Indian trust beneficiaries. The claims fall into three areas:

  • Historical Accounting Claims state that the federal government violated its trust duties by not providing a proper historical accounting relating to IIM accounts and other trust assets.
  • Trust Administration Claims include:
    • Fund Administration Claims state that the federal government violated its trust duties and mismanaged individual Indian trust funds.
    • Land Administration Claims state that the federal government violated its trust responsibilities for management of land, oil, natural gas, mineral, timber, grazing, and other resources.

The federal government denies all these claims. It says it has no legal responsibility for these claims and owes nothing to the Class Members.

(back to top)

5. Why is there a Settlement?

The Settlement is an agreement between the Plaintiffs and the federal government. Settlements end lawsuits. This does not mean the Court has ruled in favor of either side. The parties wish to resolve their differences and realize that many Class Members are elderly and dying and need to receive compensation. In addition, large numbers of Class Members currently live in poverty. So, after 14 years of litigation, both sides want to settle the lawsuit so individual Indian trust beneficiaries receive compensation for their claims. The Settlement will also help the federal government reduce future administration expenses and accounting issues. Class Representatives and lawyers representing them believe that the Settlement is reasonable under the circumstances.

(back to top)



WHO IS IN THE SETTLEMENT?

1. Who is part of the Settlement?

The proposed Settlement affects individual Indians across the country, including members of most federally recognized tribes west of the Mississippi River. The Settlement includes two groups or "Classes." An individual may be a member of one or both Classes. Most people included in the Settlement are members of both Classes.

Historical Accounting Class

  • Anyone alive on September 30, 2009,
  • Who had an open IIM account anytime between October 25, 1994 and September 30, 2009, and
  • Whose account had at least one cash transaction (that was not later reversed).

Note to heirs:

  • The estate of an IIM account holder who was deceased as of September 30, 2009 is included in the Historical Accounting Class if the IIM account (or its related probate account) was open as of that date.
  • The heirs of any Class Member who died after September 30, 2009, but before distribution of any Settlement funds, will receive that Class Member's Settlement payments through probate.

Trust Administration Class

  • Anyone alive on September 30, 2009, and who
    • Had an IIM account recorded in currently available electronic data in federal government systems ("Electronic Ledger Era") anytime from approximately 1985 to September 30, 2009, or
    • Can demonstrate ownership interest in trust land or land in restricted status as of September 30, 2009.
  • The estate of any deceased beneficiary whose IIM account was open or whose trust assets had been in probate as reflected in the federal government's records as of September 30, 2009.

Note to heirs:

  • The heirs of any Class Member who died after September 30, 2009, but before distribution of any Settlement funds, will receive that Class Member's Settlement payments through probate.

(back to top)

2. Are there exceptions to being included?

The Historical Accounting Class does not include individuals who filed a separate lawsuit before June 10, 1996, against the federal government making a claim for a complete historical accounting.

The Trust Administration Class does not include individuals who filed a separate lawsuit or who were part of a certified class in a class action lawsuit making a Funds Administration Claim or a Land Administration Claim against the federal government before December 10, 2010.

(back to top)

3. If I never had an IIM account or my IIM account is now inactive or never existed,
does this Settlement affect me?

If you are included in the Historical Accounting Class and/or the Trust Administration Class, the settlement could affect you even though your IIM account is inactive or never existed.

If you are NOT currently receiving quarterly or annual IIM account statements and you believe you might be affected, please provide us with the following information so that we may appropriately match you to a Class Member record:

  • Name, including former names
  • Address, including former addresses
  • Social security number
  • Date of birth
  • IIM account number
  • Tribe number

If you do not have all of this information, please provide us with as much as possible to assist us with researching your eligibility.

(back to top)

4. I'm not sure if I'm included in the Settlement.

If you have reviewed the Notice and information available on the website and are not sure whether you are included in one or both or you are unsure if the federal government has your current address, register to participate on this website.

(back to top)



DETERMINATION LETTERS AND ELIGIBILITY DOCUMENTATION

1. If I received a first determination letter in May 2013 stating I am not eligible for the Settlement did I need to do anything?

You were not required to take any further action if you agreed with the first determination that you do not meet the criteria for Class Member status. If you disagreed with your determination, you needed to submit all necessary additional documentation substantiating each element of the Class definition to the Claims Administrator, postmarked by July 1, 2013, accompanied by a copy of your determination letter.

Although we cannot guarantee that the Court will consider a response submitted after July 1, we encourage you to continue to provide new documentation that establishes your eligibility. The Court and Counsel will determine how documents submitted after the July 1 deadline will be handled. Please see the following FAQ's in this section for an explanation of the types of documentation that may prove that you are eligible for the Trust Administration Class.

(back to top)

2. If I received a second determination letter in August 2013 stating I am not eligible for the Settlement, do I need to do anything?

You are not required to take any further action if you agree with the second determination that you do not meet the criteria for Class Member status. If you disagree with your second determination and wish to file an appeal, you need to submit a signed letter to the Claims Administrator stating your wish to appeal the second determination of your eligibility. The signed letter must be postmarked no later than September 4, 2013.

(back to top)

3. How do I appeal the second determination of my eligibility as a Class Member?

If you disagree with your second determination of eligibility, you may appeal it. Any appeal must be made in writing by submitting a signed letter to the Claims Administrator stating your wish to appeal. The signed letter must be postmarked no later than September 4, 2013.

Appeals will be decided by the Special Master appointed to this case. The Honorable Richard A. Levie (Ret.) was appointed by the Court in December 2012 to oversee distribution of settlement funds to individual Class Members.

(back to top)

4. How do I demonstrate that I am an eligible Member of the Trust Administration Class?

To show that you are an eligible member of the Trust Administration Class you must provide documentation proving that you fit the Class definition. The Class definition requires the following:

  • That you are an individual Indian beneficiary, and;
  • That you had an open IIM account at any time between approximately 1985 to September 30, 2009, or;
  • Owned trust land or land in restricted status as of September 30, 2009.

If you received a letter stating you were ineligible but you can demonstrate that you are eligible, you needed to provide documentation proving that you meet the above criteria for Class Membership. The following FAQ's provide instructions for documenting Settlement eligibility and the documents that may be used to establish each element of eligibility.

(back to top)

5. How do I demonstrate that I am an Individual Indian Beneficiary?

Individual Indian beneficiary status can be established by submitting the following types of documentation to establish you are Indian:

  • Tribal membership or tribal enrollment card
  • A letter from the tribe or a government agency such as the Bureau of Indian Affairs ("BIA"), Office of the Special Trustee ("OST") or Department of the Interior ("DOI") confirming status as an enrolled member of a tribe
  • Birth certificate that specifically references Indian ethnicity
  • BIA Probate Order specifying that the claimant is an Indian

Copies of documents that help establish your status as a member of the Trust Administration Class needed to be sent to the Claims Administrator, postmarked by July 1, 2013 and accompanied by a copy of your determination letter. Do not send original documents.

Although we cannot guarantee that the Court will consider documentation submitted after July 1, we encourage you to continue to provide new documentation that establishes your eligibility. The Court and Counsel will determine how documents submitted after the July 1 deadline will be handled.

You may send documents to:

By Regular Mail:

Indian Trust Settlement
P.O. Box 9577
Dublin, Ohio 43017-4877

By Certified or Overnight Mail:

Indian Trust Settlement
5151 Blazer Parkway Suite A
Dublin, Ohio 43017

(back to top)

6. How do I demonstrate that I had an open IIM account at any time between approximately 1985 to September 30, 2009?

You can establish that you had an open IIM account between approximately 1985 to September 30, 2009 by providing a copy or summary statement showing your name, account number and the date it was opened or dated prior to September 30, 2009, or a letter from the BIA or Office of the Special Trustee with your IIM account number referenced stating that the account was open during that time period.

This documentation needed to be postmarked by July 1, 2013, and accompanied by a copy of your determination letter.

Although we cannot guarantee that the Court will consider documentation submitted after July 1, we encourage you to continue to provide new documentation that establishes your eligibility. The Court and Counsel will determine how documents submitted after the July 1 deadline will be handled.

You may send documents to:

By Regular Mail:

Indian Trust Settlement
P.O. Box 9577
Dublin, Ohio 43017-4877

By Certified or Overnight Mail:

Indian Trust Settlement
5151 Blazer Parkway Suite A
Dublin, Ohio 43017

(back to top)

7. How do I demonstrate that I owned trust land or land in restricted status as of September 30, 2009?

You can establish that you owned trust land or land in restricted status as of September 30, 2009 by providing documentation such as a deed showing your ownership of trust or restricted land, a probate order stating you inherited restricted or trust land prior to September 30, 2009, a quit claim deed, and/or communications with the BIA on the interest of trust land or land in restricted status by way of example.

If you believe you should be classified as having owned Trust or Restricted Land as of September 30, 2009, the following documentation is requested to establish your claim:

  • Trust or Restricted land deed
  • Trust or Restricted Title Holdings Report
  • BIA Probate Order identifying the ownership of Trust or Restricted Land passing to you prior to the record date: September 30, 2009.
  • Tribal, state or government issued documentation signed by a tribal, state or government official specifying the ownership of the qualifying property
  • Oil and gas lease referencing you as owner of trust land dated prior to September 30, 2009

Documentation needed to be sent to the Claims Administrator and postmarked by July 1, 2013, and accompanied by a copy of your determination letter.

Although we cannot guarantee that the Court will consider documentation submitted after July 1, we encourage you to continue to provide new documentation that establishes your eligibility. The Court and Counsel will determine how documents submitted after the July 1 deadline will be handled.

You may send documents to:

By Regular Mail:

Indian Trust Settlement
P.O. Box 9577
Dublin, Ohio 43017-4877

By Certified or Overnight Mail:

Indian Trust Settlement
5151 Blazer Parkway Suite A
Dublin, Ohio 43017

(back to top)

8. How do I prove that I am an heir to a deceased IIM account holder or individual who owned restricted or trust lands, when the decedent is NOT listed in the DOI's data as a Class Member?

If the estate is not listed in the DOI's data as a Class Member then you must first establish that the estate is eligible for the Settlement.

To establish the eligibility of a Deceased Individual, your Claim Form must have been submitted timely and you must have submitted any documents that show the Deceased Individual was Indian and either owned trust or restricted land on September 30, 2009 or was an IIM account holder with an open account between approximately 1985 and September 30, 2009. See the FAQs in this section about how to prove class member eligibility and what types of documents to submit.

If you establish a decedent is a class member, you will also need to provide documentation which directs distribution of the estate's settlement funds. The Claims Administrator may issue payments for the estate once acceptable documentation directing distribution of the estate has been received. The Court has ordered that documents such as the following are acceptable:

  • A state or tribal probate order identifying the heirs to the estate;
  • Documentation showing the appointment of an Executor, Administrator, or Personal Representative of the Estate;
  • A last will and testament that has been approved through a probate order;
  • A small estate document from an approved state where the estate is in accordance with that state's small estate procedures;
  • A federal probate order that directs distribution of trust funds or trust lands.

A copy of a tribal, state, or federal probate order is needed to establish whether the Claims Administrator can pay the heir(s) directly for the estate's Settlement award. If you do not have a probate order but a personal representative or executor has been named for the estate, we can disburse funds to the representative or executor and they will be responsible for distributing the funds according to the wishes of the deceased Class Member.

You may send documents to:

By Regular Mail:

Indian Trust Settlement
P.O. Box 9577
Dublin, Ohio 43017-4877

By Certified or Overnight Mail:

Indian Trust Settlement
5151 Blazer Parkway Suite A
Dublin, Ohio 43017

Please note the July 1, 2013 deadline does not apply to documentation used to determine distribution of deceased Class Members' awards. Heirs to estates of eligible Class Members may continue to submit documentation to direct the distribution of estate awards.

(back to top)

9. How do I prove that I am an heir to a deceased IIM account holder or individual who owned restricted or trust lands, when the decedent is listed in the DOI's data as a Class Member?

If you have verified with the Claims Administrator helpline (1-800-961-6109) that the estate you are an heir to is in the Interior's contact data as an eligible Class Member, the Claims Administrator may issue payments for the estate once acceptable documentation directing distribution of the estate has been received. The Court has ordered that documents such as the following are acceptable:

  • A state or tribal probate order identifying the heirs to the estate;
  • Documentation showing the appointment of an Executor, Administrator, or Personal Representative of the Estate;
  • A last will and testament that has been approved through a probate order;
  • A small estate document from an approved state where the estate is in accordance with that state's small estate procedures;
  • A federal probate order that directs distribution of trust funds or trust lands.

A copy of a tribal, or state, or federal probate order is needed to establish whether the Claims Administrator can pay the heir(s) directly for the estate's Settlement award. If you do not have a tribal or state probate order but a personal representative or executor has been named for the estate, we can disburse funds to the representative or executor and they will be responsible for distributing the funds according to the wishes of the deceased Class Member.

You may send documents to:

By Regular Mail:

Indian Trust Settlement
P.O. Box 9577
Dublin, OH 43017-4877

By Certified or Overnight Mail:

Indian Trust Settlement
5151 Blazer Parkway Suite A
Dublin, Ohio 43017

Please note the July 1, 2013 deadline does not apply to documentation used to determine distribution of deceased Class Members' awards. Heirs to estates of eligible Class Members may continue to submit documentation to direct the distribution of estate awards.

(back to top)

10. What is a Small Estate Document, and which states were approved for use?

The Special Master's July 16 order authorizes the Claims Administrator to use small estate procedures from specific states to distribute settlement funds to estates and heirs of deceased Class Members when no state or tribal court order, no probated will, and no legally-appointed executor or administrator exists.

The order authorizes the use of small estate procedures for Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.

(back to top)

11. What if I cannot provide documentation such as a probate order or official documentation naming an executor or personal representative of the estate?

According to the current court order, all remaining settlement payments for deceased class members of the Historical and Trust classes where the documentation that has been submitted is not sufficient for the distribution of the estate's settlement funds, or where documentation is ambiguous or conflicting, will be made in accordance with orders of the Special Master at his discretion.

Claims without documentation will remain unpaid. Any such funds that remain unpaid after November 24, 2014, the Special Master, after considering any recommendation from the Claims Administrator and class counsel, will enter orders regarding the disposition of any such funds.

(back to top)



THE SETTLEMENT BENEFITS - WHAT YOU GET

1. What does the Settlement provide?

The Settlement will provide:

  • $1.412 billion Accounting/Trust Administration Fund, plus a $100 million Trust Administration Adjustment Fund, plus any earned interest, to pay for Historical Accounting and Trust Administration Claims. This money will also pay for the cost of administering and implementing the Settlement, as well as other expenses.
  • $1.9 billion Trust Land Consolidation Fund to purchase "fractionated" individual Indian trust lands. The program will allow individual Indians to get money for land interests divided among numerous owners. Land sales are voluntary. If you sell your land it will be returned to tribal control.
  • Up to $60 million for an Indian Education Scholarship Fund to help Native Americans attend college or vocational school. This money will come out of the $1.9 billion Trust Land Consolidation Fund and will be based upon the participation of landowners in selling these fractionated land interests.

More details are in a document called the Settlement Agreement.

(back to top)

2. What is fractionated land?

Fractionated land is a parcel of land that has many owners, often hundreds of owners. Frequently, owners of highly fractionated land receive very little money from that land.

(back to top)

ACCOUNTING/TRUST ADMINISTRATION FUND

3. How much will my payment be if I'm an Accounting Class Member?

Each member of the Historical Accounting Class will receive $1,000. This is a per-person, not a per-account, payment.

(back to top)

4. How much will my payment be if I'm a Trust Administration Class Member?

It depends on how much income you've collected into your IIM account. Each member of the Trust Administration Class will receive a baseline payment of $500. The $100 million in the Trust Administration Adjustment Fund will be used to increase the minimum payment for Trust Administration Class Members. The current estimate is that will raise the minimum payment to Trust Administration Class Members to about $800. Individuals with an IIM account open between 1985 and September 30, 2009 may receive more than $800. This payment is separate from, and in addition to, the $1,000 payment to individuals in the Historical Accounting Class.

The payment calculation uses the sum of your 10 highest years of income in your IIM account to determine your share of the Trust Administration Fund. That Fund is estimated to be $850 million to $1 billion. The exact dollar amount you will get cannot be known with certainty at this time because it is based on (a) the recorded income deposited to your IIM account over a period of time, and (b) the amount of money that will be left in the Accounting/Trust Administration Fund after deducting:

  • All of the $1,000 payments to Historical Accounting Class Members, and
  • Attorneys' fees, their expenses, including expense reimbursements and possibly incentive fees to Class Representatives and the costs of administering and implementing the Settlement.

Congress has determined that payments to Trust Administration Class Members should be increased for individuals whose payments are calculated to be:

  • Zero; or
  • Greater than zero (but only if you would have received a smaller Stage 2 payment than Trust Administration Class Members whose payment is calculated to be zero).

For example, if you were supposed to receive a base payment of $500, your payment might be increased to $800. If your neighbor was supposed to receive a base payment of $600, his payment might be increased to $800.

The following are estimated calculations and are in addition to the $1,000 you will receive as a member of the Historical Accounting Class. Your final Trust Administration payment could be more or less.

  • If the sum of your 10 highest years of revenue is between $0 and $5,000, you may receive between $800 and $1,250.00.
  • If the sum of your 10 highest years of revenue is between $5,000.01 and $15,000, you may receive between $1,250.01 and $2,500.
  • If the sum of your 10 highest years of revenue is between $15,000.01 and $30,000, you may receive between $2,500.01 and $5,000.
  • If the sum of your 10 highest years of revenue is between $30,000.01 and $75,000, you may receive between $5,000.01 and $12,000.
  • If the sum of your 10 highest years of revenue is between $75,000.01 and $750,000, you may receive between $12,000.01 and $125,000.
  • If the sum of your 10 highest years of revenue is greater than $750,000.01, you may receive more than $125,000.

If your account shows fewer than ten years of income, a zero dollar amount will be used in the years for which no income has been recorded. Reversed transactions and transfers between an individual's accounts will not be included in that calculation.

(back to top)

5. How will the Accounting/Trust Administration Fund be distributed?

Stage 1 - The $1,000 payments to Historical Accounting Class Members will be distributed shortly after the Settlement is approved and the Court's order becomes final. For those Class Members who cannot be found, their payment will be deposited in a Remainder Account until the Class Member is located and can demonstrate his or her ownership interest. If a Class Member cannot be located prior to the conclusion of the distribution process, his or her funds will be transferred to the Indian Education Scholarship Fund (see How Will the Indian Education Scholarship Fund Work?).

Stage 2 - Payments to Trust Administration Class Members will be distributed after it is determined that substantially all the Trust Administration Class Members have been identified and the payments have been calculated (see How Much Will My Payment Be If I'm a Trust Administration Class Member?).

(back to top)

6. What happens to any funds left in the Accounting/Trust Administration Fund?

After all payments are made, any money that is left over will be contributed to the Indian Education Scholarship Fund (see How Will the Indian Education Scholarship Fund Work?).

(back to top)

TRUST LAND CONSOLIDATION FUND

7. What is the Trust Land Consolidation Fund?

Over time, through generations, Indian trust lands owned by individuals have been fractionated into smaller and smaller undivided ("fractionated") ownership interests. According to government calculations, owners historically have received very little money and the cost to administer the IIM account frequently has been more than what is paid out to individual Indians.

The $1.9 billion Trust Land Consolidation Fund will provide individual Indians with an opportunity to get money for the fractionated land. As an additional incentive for owners to sell their land interests, an amount above the fair-market value will be paid into the Indian Education Scholarship Fund (see How Will the Indian Education Scholarship Fund work?).

The Trust Land Consolidation Fund will be used for four things: (1) to purchase the fractionated land interests, (2) to carry out the Trust Land Consolidation Program, (3) to further Trust Reform efforts, and (4) to set aside up to $60 million for Indian scholarships. At least 85% of the Fund will be used to purchase land. The Department of the Interior will consult with tribes to identify fractionated interests that the Department may want to consider purchasing.

(back to top)

8. How much money can I get from selling my land?

The Department of the Interior will offer fair market value for fractionated trust land.

(back to top)

9. How can I sell my land?

The procedures for selling trust land have not been determined at this point. Once those procedures have been determined, the Department of the Interior will attempt to contact individual Indian trust beneficiaries who own fractionated interests that it wishes to purchase.

(back to top)

10. What happens to land when owners cannot be located?

For fractionated interests that the Department of the Interior wishes to purchase, but whose owners cannot be located, Interior will attempt to find missing Class Members, including through the publication of notice in appropriate newspapers and newsletters for a period of at least six months. Five years after the Settlement is granted final approval, Class Members whose whereabouts are unknown, after diligent efforts have been made by the federal government to locate them, will be assumed to have consented to the transfer of their fractionated interests and their Indian Land Consolidation Funds will be deposited into an IIM account.

(back to top)

11. How long will the Trust Land Consolidation Fund continue?

The Department of the Interior will have up to 10 years from the date the Settlement is granted final approval to purchase the fractionated trust land. Any money remaining in the Land Consolidation Fund after that time will be returned to the U.S. Treasury.

(back to top)

INDIAN EDUCATION SCHOLARSHIP FUND

12. How will the Indian Education Scholarship Fund work?

The Indian Education Scholarship Fund will provide money for Native American students to attend college and vocational school. It will be funded in three ways:

  • Up to $60 million will come from the Trust Land Consolidation Fund in connection with the purchase of fractionated interests in trust land. Contributions will be as follows:
Land Purchase Price Contribution to Fund
Less than $200$10
Less than $200-$500$25
More than $5005% of the purchase price

The amount paid into the Indian Education Scholarship Fund is in addition to the fair market value amount that will be paid to the individual Indian landowner.

  • Any remaining funds in the Accounting/Trust Administration Fund, after all distributions and costs relating to the Settlement are paid, will be transferred to the Indian Education Scholarship Fund.
  • Any payments for Class Members that remain unclaimed for five years after Settlement is approved will be transferred to the Indian Education Scholarship Fund. This transfer will not occur for money being held for minors and adults who are mentally impaired, legally disabled, or otherwise in need of assistance.

(back to top)

13. How will the Indian Education Scholarship Fund be administered?

The American Indian College Fund will be administering the scholarship fund that was created by the $3.4 billion Cobell trust fund settlement. The Settlement authorizes up to $60 million in scholarships for Indian students. The money can be used at tribal colleges, vocational institutions and at public and private universities. A portion of the annual scholarships, 20 percent, can be used for graduate studies. The American Indian Graduate Center will be awarding those scholarships. The settlement requires a board of trustees to oversee the scholarship fund. The Interior Department and the Cobell plaintiffs will each choose two members. The American Indian College Fund will choose one member.

(back to top)

INDIAN TRUST REFORM

14. How does this Settlement affect Indian trust reform?

Reform of the Indian trust management and accounting system should continue in the future. The Settlement Agreement allows some funds in the Trust Land Consolidation Fund to be used to pay costs related to the work of a commission on Indian trust administration and reform. In the future, Class Members will still be able to bring claims against the federal government for trust reform.

(back to top)

15. Does the Settlement affect my rights or the rights of my tribe to sue the government to get the Black Hills returned?

No. The settlement does not affect your claims seeking the return of the Black Hills. With respect to your land claims, in order to participate in this Settlement you had to own the land on September 30, 2009.

(back to top)



HOW TO GET A PAYMENT

1. How can I get a payment?

To be eligible for any payments under the Settlement, you must be a member of one or both Classes.

Please note that if you are currently receiving IIM account statements you do not need to file a claim form. The claim filing deadline was Friday, March 1, 2013 for those individuals who do not meet any of the above criteria for Class Membership. If you have previously filed a claim and would like to submit additional documentation you may continue to do so. If you believe you are a Class Member but are unsure of whether we have your current contact information, please provide us with the following information so that we may appropriately match you to a Class Member record:

  • Name, including former names
  • Address, including former addresses
  • Social security number
  • Date of birth
  • IIM account number
  • Tribe number

You may provide this information by calling (800-961-6109) or via email at Info@IndianTrust.com. If you do not have all of this information, please provide us with as much as possible to assist us with researching your eligibility.

Information and documentation may also be sent to:

Indian Trust Settlement
P.O. Box 9577
Dublin, OH 43017-4877

If you are denied participation, there will be an opportunity to submit additional documentation.

(back to top)

2. When will I get my payment?

On December 11, 2012, the Court filed an Order which directed the Claims Administrator to commence distribution of payments to the living members of the Historical Accounting Class no later than December 24, 2012. We commenced check distribution the week of December 17th.

As per the Court's Order filed on April 10, 2013, the Claims Administrator made initial determinations of eligibility for the Trust Administration Class on May 1, 2013. Additional deadlines have been established by this Court Order which will dictate the timeline for Trust Administration Class final determinations and payments:

  • July 1, 2013 - Written requests for reconsideration by a potential Class Member must have been postmarked and sent with supporting documentation to the Claims Administrator by July 1.
  • August 1, 2013 - The Claims Administrator responded to any requests for reconsideration with a second determination of eligibility.
  • September 4, 2013 - Written requests to appeal the second determination must have been postmarked.

Trust Administration Class payments are expected to be mailed in 2014.

The Settlement Agreement approved by Congress and the Courts requires identification of all Trust Administration Class Members and calculation of their respective pro rata shares before the Claims Administrator for the Cobell Settlement can mail Trust Administration Class payments. That work is ongoing and is nearly complete.

After the membership of the Trust Administration Class is finalized, it will take approximately a month to complete the calculations for the over 500,000 Trust Administration Class Members. Once the Claims Administrator receives those calculations and the Court approves the Second Stage Distribution, the Claims Administrator will quickly prepare and commence distribution within three weeks.

Please be assured that all parties are doing everything possible to issue the Trust Administration payments as soon as possible.

(back to top)

3. When will payments be made to estates that are eligible members of the Historical Accounting Class?

The Court and Special Master have authorized the Claims Administrator to distribute settlement proceeds to the estates or heirs of deceased Class Members of both the Historical and Trust classes in the following manner based on the documentation available at the time of distribution:

  • To the heirs of a deceased Class Member pursuant to a submitted state or tribal probate order or pursuant to a federal probate order that directs distribution of trust funds or trust lands.
  • To the existing legally appointed executor or administrator of an estate of a deceased Class Member.
  • Pursuant to the terms of a will of a deceased Class Member that addresses, including through a residuary clause, the distribution of settlement funds, where that will has been accepted for probate by a state or tribal court or the Department of the Interior.
  • To the named successor in a small estate document from a state approved by the Special Master.

If you are an heir to the estate of an eligible Class Member, please send the Claims Administrator copies of any of the above documents so that determination of proper estate distribution can occur as quickly as possible.

(back to top)

4. Can I still file a claim?

The deadline for filing a claim in the Trust Administration Class was March 1, 2013. Identified Class Members were not required to file a claim form. Filing a claim form assists in identifying eligible Class Members so that we may connect them to Class Member records in our system and ensures that we have the most current contact information for every Class Member. If you think that you may be eligible, please provide us with the following information so that we may confirm whether you are eligible and that any payment to which you may be entitled is sent to the proper address.

  • Name, including former names
  • Address, including former addresses
  • Social security number
  • Date of birth
  • IIM account number
  • Tribe number

(back to top)

5. Will claims filed after the March 1, 2013 deadline be considered?

The Court has directed the Claims Administrator to accept as timely all claim forms postmarked on or before March 30, 2013.

(back to top)

6. Will requests to reconsider eligibility submitted after the July 1, 2013 deadline be considered?

The deadline for requesting reconsideration of eligibility and submitting documents establishing eligibility needed to be postmarked by July 1, 2013, for a personal claim or for an estate that has not previously been determined eligible.

Although we cannot guarantee that the Court will consider documentation submitted after July 1, we encourage you to continue to provide new documentation that establishes your eligibility. The Court and Counsel will determine how documents submitted after the July 1 deadline will be handled.

(back to top)



REMAINING IN THE SETTLEMENT

1. Do I need to do anything to remain in the Settlement?

If you are a Class Member, you do not have to do anything to remain in the Settlement unless you are not receiving quarterly IIM account statements. If you think that you are an eligible Class Member but do not receive IIM account statements, please provide us with the following information so that we may confirm whether you are eligible and that any payment to which you may be entitled is sent to the proper address.

  • Name, including former names
  • Address, including former addresses
  • Social security number
  • Date of birth
  • IIM account number
  • Tribe number

(back to top)

2. What am I giving up as part of the Settlement?

If the Settlement becomes final, you will give up your right to sue the federal government for the claims being resolved by this Settlement. The specific claims you are giving up against the federal government are described in Section A, paragraphs 14, 15, and 21 of the Settlement Agreement. You will be "releasing" the federal government and all related people as described in Section I of the Settlement Agreement.

If you did not receive an IIM account statement for 2009, you may request your IIM account balance as of September 30, 2009 by calling 888-678-6836. If you request your IIM account balance, you are agreeing to the balance provided by Interior unless you excluded yourself from the Settlement (see Excluding Yourself From the Settlement).

The Settlement Agreement describes the released claims with specific descriptions, so read it carefully. If you have any questions, you can talk to Class Counsel for free or you can talk to your own lawyer at your own expense.

(back to top)



EXCLUDING YOURSELF FROM THE SETTLEMENT

1. What if I don't want to be in the Settlement?

The deadline to exclude yourself from the Trust Administration Class was April 20, 2011

By law, you cannot exclude yourself from the Historical Accounting Class, if you are a member. You could only have excluded yourself from the Trust Administration Class. If you didn't want to be in that part of the Settlement, you must have taken steps to exclude yourself. This is sometimes called "opting out." By excluding yourself, you keep the right to file your own lawsuit. Or you can join any other person who opted out and bring a separate lawsuit against the federal government on any Trust Fund Administration or Land Administration Claims that you may have.

If you chose to exclude yourself from the Trust Administration Class,

  • You will not receive any money for your Fund Administration and Land Administration Claims.
  • You will not be bound by the Court's ruling and will keep your right to sue the federal government for these Claims.
  • You cannot object to or comment on this aspect of the Settlement as far as it concerns the Trust Administration Class.

If you are a member of the Historical Accounting Class:

  • You cannot exclude yourself.
  • If the Court approves the Settlement, you will not be able to sue the federal government about the Historical Accounting Claims.
  • You will receive a $1,000 payment.
  • You can object to and/or comment on the terms of the Settlement.

(back to top)

2. How do I get out of the Trust Administration Class?

The deadline to exclude yourself from the Trust Administration Class was April 20, 2011

If you excluded yourself, please note that the share of money you would have received if you had stayed in the Trust Administration Class will be removed from the $1.512 billion Accounting/Trust Administration Fund and given back to the federal government.

(back to top)



OBJECTING TO OR COMMENTING ON THE SETTLEMENT

1. How can I object to or comment on the Settlement?

Objections or comments on the Settlement must have been mailed postmarked no later than April 20, 2011

(back to top)

2. What's the difference between objecting to and excluding myself from the Settlement?

You object to the Settlement when you disagree with some part of it but you wish to remain a Class Member. An objection allows the Court to consider your views. On the other hand, exclusion or "opting out" means that you do not want to be part of the Trust Administration Class or share in the benefits of that part of the Settlement. Once excluded, you lose any right to object to any part of the Settlement that relates to the Trust Fund Administration Claims or the Land Administration Claims, because those parts of the case no longer affect you. If you excluded yourself, you are free to bring your own lawsuit for those claims.

(back to top)



THE LAWYERS REPRESENTING YOU

1. Do I have a lawyer in the case?

Yes. The Court has appointed lawyers to represent you and other Class Members as "Class Counsel," including:


Keith Harper
David Smith
Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP
607 14th Street NW, Suite 900
Washington, DC 20005-2018

You will not be charged personally for these lawyers. If you want to be represented by another lawyer, you may hire one to appear in Court for you at your own personal expense.

(back to top)

2. How will the lawyers be paid? Do the Class Representatives get paid extra?

The amount of attorneys' fees, expenses and costs to be paid to Class Counsel was decided by the Court and announced orally during the Fairness Hearing which occurred on June 20, 2011.

The Court considered the following factors: 1) the results obtained for the Class Members; 2) the fact that the majority of Class Members, 99 percent, lodged no objections to the Settlement; 3) the complexity of the litigation; 4) the duration of the litigation; 5) the risk Class Counsel took in pursuing the case; 6) the amount of attorneys' fees sufficient to encourage lawyers to take similar cases; and 7) the percentage of the common fund awarded as attorneys' fees in similarly sized settlements. The Court held that attorneys' fees, expenses and costs are to be awarded to Class Counsel in the amount of $99 million, which the Court further held was "reasonable and appropriate." This amount represents 7.1% of the common fund, which the Court held was the $1.4 billion recovered for the Trust Administration Class.

The Court further ordered that $13,616,250.84 of the $99 million in attorneys' fees, expenses and costs be withheld pending determination of outstanding issues being reviewed by the Court.

The amount awarded as attorneys' fees, expenses and costs will be paid from the Accounting/Trust Administration Fund.

During the Fairness Hearing, the Court also considered Class Counsel's request for incentive awards for the Class Representatives. The Court considered the following factors: 1) the level of participation and decision making authority exercised by the Class Representatives; 2) the level of communication with the Class Members; 3) the amount of time and effort spent pursuing the case; 4) the risks undertaken by the Class Representatives; 5) the results obtained on behalf of the Class Members; and 6) the personal sums of money expended by the Class Representatives.

The Court held the following incentive awards and expense reimbursements are to be awarded to the Class Representatives as follows:


Elouise Pepion Cobell
James Louis LaRose
Thomas Maulson
Penny Cleghorn
$2,000,000.00
$   200,000.00
$   150,000.00
$   150,000.00

Additional information regarding the Court's award of attorneys' fees, expenses and costs and incentive awards can be located on the Court Documents page.

(back to top)



THE COURT'S FAIRNESS HEARING

1. When and where will the Court decide whether to approve the Settlement?

The Court held the Fairness Hearing June 20, 2011, at the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, 333 Constitution Avenue NW, Washington, DC.

The United States District Court for the District of Columbia granted Final Approval for the Indian Trust Settlement orally at the Fairness Hearing. You can review a copy of the Final Judgment, the Order Granting Final Approval to Settlement, and the Fairness Hearing Transcript on this website in Court Documents.

(back to top)

2. Did I have to come to the hearing?

No, you did not have to come to the hearing.

(back to top)

3. Was I allowed to speak at the hearing?

Yes. You could have asked the Court for permission to speak at the Fairness Hearing, provided you submitted a Notice of Intent to Appear and Speak at the Fairness Hearing no later than April 20, 2011.

(back to top)



APPEALS

1. Was an appeal filed?

Two appeals were filed that were reviewed by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. The first was filed by Kimberly Craven on August 6, 2011. The other is a consolidated Appeal of Carol Eve Good Bear, Charles Columbe, and Mary Aurelia Johns who are being represented by David C. Harrison. This was filed on September 30, 2011. On May 22, 2012 the Court filed Judgments on these appeals which affirmed the Decision of the District Court approving the Settlement following the Fairness Hearing on June 20, 2011.

(back to top)

2. What are the reasons for the appeals that were filed?

The individuals who filed appeals wished to terminate the Settlement.

The Notice of Appeal filed August 6, 2011 was filed by one of the objectors who appeared at the Fairness Hearing on June 20th. The objector is Kimberly Craven and her objections are referred to and answered in Plaintiff's Response to Objections to Settlement under the Court Documents tab on this website. She is referred to as objector 52.

The three appeals filed on September 30, 2011 were consolidated in accordance with the Order to Consolidate Appeals. Documents related to this appeal are available on the Court docket which is available to the public.

(back to top)

3. Were these appeals resolved?

On October 29, 2012, the Supreme Court posted its decision to deny Ms. Craven's petition and will not hear this case. Good Bear, et al. have dismissed with prejudice their Supreme Court petition in return for Class Counsel's agreement to pay their attorney's fees and expenses out of attorney's fees that Class Counsel expects to receive. A stipulation of dismissal was filed with the Supreme Court on November 6, and the Supreme Court officially dismissed their petition on November 7.

(back to top)



GETTING MORE INFORMATION

1. How do I get more information?

This website and the Detailed Notice summarizes the proposed Settlement. More details are in the Settlement Agreement. You may also write with questions to Indian Trust Settlement, P.O. Box 9577, Dublin, OH 43017-4877. You can also call the toll-free number, 1-800-961-6109, or email Info@IndianTrust.com.

(back to top)