PABLO (AP) — Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes leaders have decided to distribute about half of a $150 million settlement with the U.S. government over mismanaged land royalties to enrolled tribal members, while keeping the other half for future programs.
Tribal spokesman Robert McDonald said recent public meetings dealing with the issue have identified four program priorities — providing for elders, preserving language, cultural programs and economic development, The Missoulian reported (http://bit.ly/OzFfUs) Tuesday.
"There's no timeline, but it is clearly a topic they are investing time into," McDonald said.
The council decided last week to give each of the estimated 7,800 enrolled tribal members $10,000. If the decision isn't reversed, the distribution would take place on Sept. 12.
Some Salish and Kootenai members wanted the entire $150 million distributed, saying it would help alleviate homelessness and extreme poverty on the western Montana reservation.
"The tribal council has been holding community meetings for weeks in which a majority of the people had voiced their favor of the 100 percent payout," said tribal member Ramona Cajune.
Cajune said opponents of the council's decision plan to picket in Pablo.
The $150 million allocated to the western Montana tribes is the second-largest amount allocated to a Native American reservation in the $1 billion government settlement with 44 tribes announced this spring. The largest settlement is $193 million to the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation in Washington.
The agreement is meant to settle claims of money lost in mismanaged accounts and royalties from natural resource development. The tribes' lawsuits dealt with tribal trust funds, not individual trust funds, which are addressed in a $3.4 billion class-action settlement led by Elouise Cobell, a Blackfeet woman who died last year.