After weeks of misinformation and rumors circulating Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation, the tribal Business Committee offered an explanation at a Thursday morning meeting of the use of funds from a recent court settlement.
A lawsuit filed by the Chippewa Cree Tribe in 2002 against the Department of Interior over the mismanagement of tribal resources was lumped into a $1 billion settlement with 40 other tribal lawsuits, approved by Congress and President Barack Obama this spring.
While some more lucrative, resource-heavy reservations won hundreds of millions of dollars, Rocky Boy received $8.442 million of the settlement.
According to the plan handed out at the meeting, $2.1 million of the funds will be distributed evenly among tribe members, $300 for each of the tribe’s nearly 7,000 enrolled members.
$1.5 million is listed as Tribal Aid, which funds assistance for tribe members, including food and fuel vouchers.
The Housing Department received $500,000, with an additional $500,000 going to the Health Board.
The committee set aside $1 million for the construction of a new tribal office, the latest in a number of facility overhauls, from the new Stone Child College to the Justice Center that opened this spring.
The largest portion, $2.5 million, will be invested with Plain Green LLC, in the hopes of growing into more usuable funds.
Committee member Ted Whitford told meeting attendees that they had hoped to invest $4.5 million, which he claimed could have yielded $87 million in five years, but decided that some should go directly to the tribal members in a per capita payment.
The remaining $800,000 will be put into the Native American Resources Fund, to cover the legal fees incurred by the decade-long lawsuit.
Luann Belcourt, a liaison between the committee and the community, came to the meeting with Lily Corcoran and Peggy Aquino to show the committee a petition with 541 signatures demanding that they spread the $8.442 million equally among all tribal members, a one-time payment of $1,210.67, instead of the $300 they are getting.
Committee members explained that they had considered the possibility, but thought it would be a wiser use of funds to invest in the infrastructure and future of the reservation.
“Our intent was to think of the future, ” Whitford said. “To invest for our children and grandchildren.
“With this you might buy a used car, maybe a washer and dryer. But what about the future. ”
Committee member Joe LaFromboise said that people shouldn’t be satisfied with only one payment, but should be excited about wise investments yielding continuous payments, to make it last.
“We can invest, and we can get a per capita payment every year, ” LaFromboise said. “Let’s get greedy. ”
Another contentious rumor circulating the reservation since the settlement was that the committee members voted to give themselves a $30,000 bonus.
Committee Chair Bruce Sun Child explained this morning that they had set money aside, but it is not a bonus. It is intended as a retirement pension, like a 401k he explained, for the committee members.