WASHINGTON – The United States has reached a final settlement of a long-running lawsuit by the Osage Tribe of Oklahoma regarding the United States’ accounting and management of the tribe’s trust funds and non-monetary trust assets. Ignacia S. Moreno, Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division; the Interior Department’s Deputy Secretary David J. Hayes, Solicitor Hilary C. Tompkins, and Bureau of Indian Affairs Director Michael S. Black; the Treasury Department’s General Counsel George W. Madison, and the Osage Tribe’s Principal Chief John Red Eagle and other tribal officials commemorated the settlement during a ceremony at the Department of Interior’s headquarters in Washington today.
“This historic settlement resolves with finality long-standing trust accounting and trust management claims by the Osage Tribe,” said Assistant Attorney General Moreno. “This settlement is the outcome of dedicated efforts by the United States and the Osage Tribe to resolve years of costly and protracted litigation. Today, we come together in the spirit of partnership and mutual respect to recognize an important milestone on a path to a future marked by a stronger government-to-government and trust relationship. This settlement demonstrates the United States’ strong commitment to resolving pending tribal trust accounting and trust management cases in an expedited, fair and just manner.”
“Reaching a final settlement with the Osage Tribe has been a priority for this Administration, and it demonstrates President Obama's commitment to reconciliation and empowerment for American Indian nations,” said Interior’s Deputy Secretary Hayes. “The settlement process was fundamental to respecting the government-to-government relationship between the U.S. government and the Osage Tribe. This agreement marks a new beginning – one of just reconciliation, better communication and strengthened management of tribal trust assets.”
“This settlement is an historic, positive development for Indian country and a major step on the road to reconciliation following years of litigation between the Osage Tribe and the United States,” said Interior Solicitor Tompkins. “This administration has worked in good faith to reach a settlement that is both honorable and responsible. The settlement will allow the United States and the Tribe to foster, cultivate and strengthen their trust relationship as they move together into the future.”
Under the negotiated agreement, executed on Oct. 14, 2011, litigation will end regarding the Department of the Interior’s accounting and management of the tribe’s trust accounts, trust lands and other natural resources, including the tribe’s mineral estate. The United States will pay the tribe $380 million to compensate the tribe for its claims of historical losses to its trust funds and interest income as a result of the government’s management of trust assets. The parties also will implement measures that will lead to strengthened management of the tribe’s trust assets and improved communications between the Department of the Interior and the tribe, including procedures for delivery of periodic statements of account, annual audit information, and information relating to the management of the mineral estate to the tribe. Importantly, the agreement also provides dispute resolution provisions to reduce the likelihood of future litigation.
The Osage Tribe brought its trust accounting and trust management lawsuits in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims (CFC) in 1999 and 2000. Also, the tribe brought a trust accounting case in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in 2004 and dismissed that case in 2010. The CFC litigation included numerous motions, extensive discovery, many rulings, and two trials over 12 years. Between 2006 and 2010, the tribe obtained two judgments from the CFC against the United States for about $331 million on various claims spanning the 1972-2000 period. A trial on significant claims remaining in this case was scheduled to begin in February 2012.