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Colvilles to gain millions in settlement


The Colville Tribes will gain millions from an agreement approved last week that settles the claims of nearly 700 tribes nationwide against the federal government.

The nearly $1 billion settlement with the Obama administration has been reached over claims the government shorted tribes for decades on contract costs to manage education, law enforcement and other federal services.

Tribes and tribal agencies are expected to submit claims for compensation ranging from $8,000 for some Alaska Native villages to $58 million for the Navajo Nation.

The Colville Business Council will receive $13.3 million in the settlement, according to court documents.

A federal judge’s approval was filed late Tuesday, Feb. 23, in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The process to release payments could take several months.

“The end result was there were no objections to the settlement and no objections to the fee request,” an attorney for the tribes, Michael Gross, told the Seattle Times. “This showed unity among Indian tribes that is absolutely astounding.”

All of Washington state’s federally recognized tribes will receive money, Gross stated.

Some underfunded federal contracts in the case reportedly dated back to 1970.

The case was first filed in 1990 by the Ramah Navajo Chapter, a community of about 4,000. In 2012, it went to the U.S. Supreme Court, which sided with the tribes. The Interior Department announced a proposed settlement in September.

Since the Supreme Court ruling, Congress has appropriated hundreds of millions of dollars to fully fund the contract support costs for tribes.

The settlement is the latest in a string of major agreements between Interior and tribes that resolve disputes ongoing for years, including one as large as $3.4 billion that resolved claims over royalties owed to generations of individual landowners.

Colville Business Council Chairman Jim Boyd had not returned calls for comment by the Star’s print deadline on Tuesday.

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