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Navajo Nation to sign $554 million settlement from U.S. government

Posted at 7:14 PM, Sep 25, 2014
and last updated 2014-09-25 19:14:20-04

The Navajo Nation will mark history Friday when it officially announces a $554 million settlement from the U.S. government, putting an end to years of litigation.

The landmark agreement stems from a 2006 lawsuit in which the nation says the U.S. mismanaged trust fund assets dating back to 1946.

“It’s monumental. This is the largest trust responsibility award from the United States in the history of Indian country. It will never completely redress the wrongs done to prior generations, but it’s going to allow some opportunities for future generations,” said Dana Bobroff, deputy attorney general for the nation.

In May, an agreement was reached between members of the Navajo Nation, the U.S. Interior and Justice departments and the Bureau of Indian Affairs and will be sealed with a signing ceremony Friday at Window Rock Tribal Park in Arizona.

Acting U.S. Assistant Attorney General Sam Hirsch, who will attend Friday’s ceremony, said President Obama has long worked to strengthen ties between the United States and the Navajo Nation, adding that “it reflects my personal commitment to resolving long-standing lawsuits rather than wasting the time and resources of both the United States and Indian tribes in contentious litigation.”

According to the Department of Justice, the U.S. settled with 41 tribes for about $1 billion in April 2012. Since then, the government has focused on resolving other trust accounting and mismanagement cases.

LoRenzo Bates, speaker pro tem for the Navajo Nation Council, says that “this is not only a victory for the Navajo Nation in terms of being able to get through this, but it also sends a word out to any Indian country tribes that are in the same situation as the Navajo Nation. There is a solution to what they are having to deal with.”

With over 300,000 members, the Navajo Nation is the largest Indian tribe in the U.S.

It has the largest reservation in the United States, spreading 27,000 square miles over Arizona, New Mexico and Utah, with an additional 14 million acres of trust land leased out to various agricultural endeavors.