On April 11, President Barack Obama and his administration announced its intent to settle claims of mismanaged funds with 41 tribes totaling $1.023 billion as reported by Indian Country Today Media Network. As part of that initiative, on April 25, the Round Valley Indian Tribes announced it will receive $8.5 million according to a press release by the Tribe.
The historic settlement involving the Tribe – a Confederation of the Yuki, Concow Maidu, Little Lake, Pomo, Nomlaki, Wailaki and Pit River tribes – pertains to mismanagement of tribal lands, resources and monies dating back to 1856, when the Round Valley Indian Reservation was first established in Covelo, California.
“Our people have historically endured irreparable trauma from the theft of our lands, the atrocious abuse of our ancestors, and the desecration of our traditions,” Tribal Vice President Joe Dukepoo said in the release. “This is not a ‘true’ settlement because it does not include payment for all of the wrongdoing to us and our ancestors – such harms simply cannot be quantified. But it is an honorable effort by the United States to reconcile with the Tribe and to resolve our trust grievances dating back 156 years. In that way, the settlement is a significant milestone between Round Valley and the United States.”
The Tribe originally filed its suit against the U.S. on December 27, 2006 in the Court of Federal Claims in Washington, D.C. according to the release. Now, after more than five years of litigation, there is some reconciliation.
“Little did we know then how long and involved that process would be,” said Tribal Councilman Eugene Jamison Jr. in the release. Jamison was tribal president when the suit was filed. “At the time we only wanted the federal government to give us an accounting of how the Tribe’s money that has been entrusted to it, had been handled. Upon learning the Tribe’s money had been grossly mismanaged, we then wanted the government to make things right.”
Dukepoo was quick to note that the $8.5 million is not a federal handout but is the Tribe’s monies and always has been. The funds will primarily be used to fund community and economic development projects, and job creation on the reservation and in the town of Covelo according to the release.
“It is the Tribe’s goal to build and preserve our homelands in a manner that would make our ancestors proud while ensuring sustainability for our future generations,” said Dukepoo.
For the Tribe, one of California’s largest with more than 4,500 citizens, the settlement brings hope, as 89 percent of the Reservation’s Indian population is unemployed due mostly to the extreme isolation. Sixty-eight percent live below poverty guidelines according to a Bureau of Indian Affairs Labor Force Report the release stated.
“We have hope that the settlement funds will help solve some of the Tribe’s longstanding societal problems and help our people become self-sufficient and proud,” said Jamison. “We are grateful for the opportunity to make a better future for ourselves and our children.”
According to the ICTMN story, Ignacia Moreno, assistant attorney general at the U.S. Department of Justice, said the settlements go beyond money, that they set forth a framework for promoting tribal sovereignty and improving nation-to-nation federal-tribal relations, while trying to avoid future litigation through improved communications.