For over 15 years Indian country has been watching the legal wrangling of the Cobell lawsuit. With every passing year the membership class grows, inevitably costing the United States more money not only in legal fees (which are in the several hundreds of millions of dollars at this point), but in the growing number of people with individual Indian Money accounts to whom much of the settlement will go. The vast majority of elders who are the most deserving recipients of the settlement (most deserving because they were the ones who were originally cheated out of their money) are gone now, and it is their descendents who will inherit what was rightfully theirs.
Those of us who will benefit from our ancestors' loss, meanwhile, wait endlessly for the check to finally come in the mail. It was too good to be true when nearly 2 years ago in December of 2010 that President Obama signed the Claims Resolution Act of 2010 approving the $3.4 billion settlement and it seemed imminent that the payments would begin. Instead what we got was news that the settlement was being challenged, not by some angry politician or Indian-hating wacko, but by a small handful of members of the class of the plaintiffs who will benefit from the settlement. Go figure.
This week we received another in the series of Ask Eloise periodic updates in the case, which we have been receiving for years. We are informed that the settlement cannot go through until the four class members who are challenging the settlement either withdraw their appeal or their appeal fails to make it to the Supreme Court, which they say they will attempt if the lower courts continue to block them, as they have, citing a lack of merit. Another day, another letter. You can read more about the Cobell case background here and here.