YUROK TRIBE RECEIVES $27.5M FEDERAL SETTLEMENT: TRIBE TO DISTRIBUTE FUNDS TO MEMBERS, BUILD CASINO
The following is a press release from the Yurok Tribe:
After careful consideration, the Yurok Tribal Council voted to put forth a referendum that seeks to allocate funds won in $27.5 million settlement in a way that addresses both the immediate needs of the Tribal Membership and its obligation to provide well-paying employment for Yurok people. The proposal, which requires approval from the voting membership, includes distributing 63 percent of the funds, won in Nez Perce Tribe, et al. v. Salazar, in per capita payments and investing the remaining 37 percent in the Tribe’s first destination resort/casino. Also included in the 37 percent are fees owed to the Native American Rights Fund for prosecuting, negotiating and finalizing the case and the cost of tribal attorneys, staff and Council who also worked on securing the settlement.
“This plan is designed to balance the present needs of the tribal membership and our obligation to create a brighter future for generations of Yurok people,” said Yurok Tribal Chairman Thomas O’Rourke Sr. “Tribal Council carefully considered this decision, which has the potential to change the course of Yurok history.”
In order to make the funds available to the Tribal Membership as promptly as possible, the Yurok Tribal Council and staff worked expeditiously to develop the ballot measure. The settlement was finalized on January 4 in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. The Yurok Tribal Council voted on the proposal outlined in the ballot — a result of several days of diligent debate — on January 12. During the settlement negotiations with the federal government, the Yurok Tribal Council signed a confidentiality agreement, which is why very little information was made available until this point. The per capita distribution plan includes the following: $4,500 for all Tribal members 60 years old or older, $3,500 for all Tribal members 18 years old or older but less than 60 years old, and $1,000 for all Tribal members below the age of 18. An irrevocable minor’s trust will be established with Morgan Stanley or other reputable trustee to insure that funds set aside for individual minors cannot be used for any other purpose. The funds will be dispersed to the individual when he or she turns 18. Enrolled members and all age calculations are as of January 9, 2013. All rights will be considered vested as of January 9, 2013. This means that per capita distributions can be inherited by surviving family members after the January 9, 2013 date. The referendum vote will be conducted via mail-in ballot only. All ballots must be received in the Klamath Post Office by February 20, 2013. A majority of those voting will need to approve the proposal outlined in the referendum for it to pass it.
This is the second and most likely that last large settlement the Yurok Tribe will receive from the federal government for pass misdeeds perpetrated by the United States. The Yurok Tribe, along with 73 other tribes, is a plaintiff in the class action lawsuit Nez PerceTribe, et al. v. Salazar, No. 06-2339 (D.D.C) in federal district court. That lawsuit seekscompensation for various trust accounting and trust mismanagement claims against the United States, such as mismanagement of tribal timber resources. This involves tribal government claims, not individual claims. The case is focused on the loss of funds to tribes because of the United States’failures to meet its trust responsibilities. The tribes involved in the Nez Perce case were encouraged to settle their claims through an initiative known as the “Settlement Proposal to the Obama Administration.” More than 40 tribes have reached a settlement with the United States. Those tribes that havereceived large settlements, like Colville, generally have large amounts of forested land in trust and consequently have extensive claims for tribal trust timber mismanagement.
In May 2012, various Tribal Council members and staff traveled to Washington, D.C., to
advocate that the Tribe receive appropriate compensation for past trust accounting and
mismanagement claims. In November 2012, the Yurok Tribal Council accepted a settlement agreement in principle with the United States. For additional information, please contact your Council member.