GREAT FALLS (AP)
AARP Magazine has named American Indian advocate Elouise Cobell of Browning one of 10 people who make the world a better place. Cobell, 61, is a member of the Blackfeet Tribe and the lead plaintiff in a class-action lawsuit against the federal government over billions of dollars in lost royalty money. AARP Magazine is the world’s largest subscription magazine, according to its Web site. Its annual Impact Awards appear in the January-February issue. The awards are given to 10 people who have improved the world through their innovative thinking, passion and perseverance. Other 2007 winners include actor and director Robert De Niro, who was chosen for helping rebuild post-Sept. 11, 2001, downtown New York; and Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas, who was picked for his groundbreaking legislation that made affordable health insurance available to everyone in the state. Cobell is an accountant and former treasurer for the Blackfeet Tribe. She helped found the Native American National Bank, the country’s first tribally owned national bank, according to AARP Magazine. Growing up on the Blackfeet Reservation, Cobell questioned why government checks sometimes didn’t arrive. “You go to any Indian community and say, What’s wrong With this picture?’” she told AARP Magazine. “These people have oil wells pumping on their land, but they’re living in shacks.” Her lawsuit aims to reclaim $100 billion earned from oil, timber and mining on lands held in trust for American Indians since the 19th century and managed by the Interior Department. The Senate Indian Affairs Committee is considering a bill that would overhaul the trust system. The honorees will receive their awards at a Dec. 18 luncheon in New York City.