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Tribal Trust Case Settlements

The Natural Resources Section is responsible for defending the United States against Indian trust accounting and trust mismanagement claims. Starting in January 2001, numerous tribes brought suit against the United States alleging that the government had breached its trust duties by failing to provide historical trust accountings of tribal trust funds and non-monetary trust resources and to manage adequately those funds and resources. By January 2007, there were over 100 such cases, brought by about 120 tribes.

Through litigation, formal mediation, and informal settlement discussions, NRS attorneys were able to amicably resolve the majority of the tribes’ “breach of trust” claims, reaching agreements with more than 110 tribes for a total of about $3.7 billion. These settlements represented a significant milestone in improving the United States’ relationship with Indian tribes. In addition to resolving historical grievances over the accounting and management of tribal trust funds and trust lands, the settlements demonstrate the government’s continuing commitment to the Indian community and the government-to-government relationship between the United States and tribes.

White House Ceremony Celebrating Tribal Trust Case Settlements Between the United States and 41 Tribes in 2012:

Tribal Case Settlement Agreement Signing
Photo by ENRD
Settlement Agreement Signing Ceremony Between Interior Department and Justice Department officials, including Principal Deputy Secretary David Hayes, and Osage Tribe leaders, at the Interior Department, in 2010:
Updated June 21, 2023