By Sarah Barchus
Thousands of Native Americans will begin to receive payments from the government as part of a $3.4 billion settlement, the Pioneer Press reported.
The solution to the long-time dispute over government handling of Native American land accounts was first outlined in 2009, then approved by Congress in 2010, then went through a two year appeal process. The plan was finalized Saturday and was announced by government officials Monday, the Cable News Network reported.
The settlement began with a lawsuit filed by Blackfeet leader Elouise Cobell of Browning, Mont. in 1996 when she noticed that those leasing Indian land made profit while the American Indians who entrusted the land to the government saw nothing, the Pioneer Press reported.
Cobell died last year from cancer, but her long-term legal fight ended in victory with the $3.4 billion Cobell settlement, which will pay $1,000 checks to 350,000 beneficiaries by Christmas, the plaintiffs' attorneys said, the Pioneer Press reported.
Additionally, 1.9 billion will be used to buy fractions of land from willing Native American sellers, which will be given as allotments to the tribe. The settlement will also be used to create an Indian education scholarship, the Pioneer Press reported.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said he hopes the settlement will allow the government and the American Indians to move forward from the issue, CNN reported.
"With the settlement now final, we can put years of discord behind us and start a new chapter in our nation-to-nation relationship," he said, CNN reported.