Tribal members take half of historic federal settlement
Colville Tribal members by referendum voted overwhelmingly to approve distribution of another 30 percent of a $193 million settlement with the federal government.
The vote was 3,497 to 303. The referendum went before voters following a petition drive. Votes were counted Friday.
That money will be distributed Oct. 12, Colville Business Council Chairman John Sirois announced Tuesday.
“The membership has spoken decisively on this matter and we applaud their voice on the issue,” Sirois said. “The Colville Business Council will now proceed accordingly — approximately $58 million will be distributed among the eligible Colville membership in October.”
Enrolled members received 20 percent of the settlement fund earlier in August with the amount just over $4,000 per member. The next distribution will be just over $6,000.
Among first time voters, the tally was 596 yes votes to 31 voting no.
The dispute over the amount of settlement funds to be distributed played a major role in the recent tribal election in which six incumbents lost their positions.
A petition asking to boost the payout had been signed by more than 1,700 tribal members and was presented to the council, which decided at that time to place a referendum before the members on whether to distribute another 30 percent.
Tribal leaders had circulated an information sheet with the ballot telling why the tribal government needed the funds to make infrastructure improvements throughout the reservation.
The Colville’s $193 million settlement, one of the largest Indian trust mismanagement settlements in U.S. history, brought to resolution one of several dozen similar cases against the federal government. Colville’s settlement was approved by a federal court judge in May. The Court also approved settlements in more than 40 other tribal trust cases.
Colville’s negotiators managed to secure an agreement that 20 percent of the settlement funds would be deposited in a trust account, the amount previously distributed. That made the Colville Tribes one of a few select Tribes which negotiated effectively to set aside settlement funds into trust, a statement from the tribal government stated Tuesday.