WASHINGTON –Attorney General Eric Holder and Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the approval by the U.S. District Court of the settlement of a class action lawsuit filed against USDA by Native American farmers alleging discrimination by USDA. The court’s approval of the settlement ends litigation concerning discrimination complaints from Native Americans generally covering the period 1981-1999.
“The settlement approved by the court Thursday will allow USDA and the Native American farmers involved in the lawsuit to move forward and focus on the future,” said Attorney General Holder. “Under the process established in this agreement, Native American farmers who believe they suffered discrimination will have their claims heard. The Department of Justice is proud to partner with USDA in the agency’s effort to ensure fair and equitable treatment of its clients."
“The Keepseagle settlement approved by the court marks just one more step toward our goal of ensuring that American Indian and Alaskan Native Tribe farmers and ranchers not only have a place at the table, but are welcome as full participants in USDA programs,” said Secretary Vilsack. President Obama, Attorney General Holder and I are delighted this day has come and recognize that today is a good day for Indian Country.
This lawsuit, Marilyn Keepseagle et al., v. Vilsack (Civil Action No. 99-3119 (D.D.C.)), was filed on Nov. 24, 1999. The settlement will not become final until it is formally approved by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.