(Pawnee, Okla.) - The Pawnee Business Council (PBC) met with the Nasharo Council on Sept. 8 in executive session to seek resolution regarding the tribal trust funds that Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma received from the Nez Perce vs. Salazar case.
The PBC voted to distribute $2 million per capita payments to enrolled Tribal members (approximately $600 per person) and $2 million towards programs and services. The Native American Rights Fund (NARF) attorneys that secured the settlement will be paid out of the balance.
Per capita payments will be processed within the next 30 days. Currently enrolled Tribal members may update mailing addresses by accessing the Pawnee Nation website or by contacting Enrollment Services at (918) 762-3624. ** The deadline to submit an address change is Friday, Sept. 28, at 5 p.m. Please share this information with friends and relatives that may not have internet services.
"The settlements in the tribal trust funds mismanagement cases across the country by the government is an historic event and resolves one of the longest outstanding issues in Indian country," said John E. Echohawk, executive director of the NARF.
A Settlement Oversight Committee comprised of three (3) Nasharo Chiefs and three (3) PBC members will decide how the $2 million earmarked for programs and services will be applied. A financial report will be published quarterly in the Chaticks si Chaticks.
A joint meeting held on Aug. 25 at the Roam Chief Event Center allowed Tribal members to express ideas and concerns regarding the allotment of the monies gained from this historical litigation that has spanned more than 100 years between federally-recognized tribes and the United States.
During the Aug. 25 meeting, many Tribal members petitioned the PBC and Nasharo Council regarding per capita payments. Other attendees suggested supporting other business endeavors that could generate a long-term income for the Pawnee Tribe.
To enable a greater level of interaction and to maintain the integrity of the meeting mandate, PBC President Marshall Gover requested that non-tribal members be excused. "This is a Tribal matter for Tribal members only," Gover said. "This money came to the Pawnee Nation. If there is a per capita, it will be restricted to those who are enrolled here."
Based on the comments received from Tribal members, the PBC identified the following for possible funding from the tribal trust fund lawsuit: issuing per capita payments to members, increasing educational opportunities, offering increased elders' assistance and increasing the burial fund.
Tribal members also suggested adding tribal programs for emergency assistance, offering diverse social services, supporting a women's shelter and the creation of an assisted living and a veteran's center. Other proposals include the installation of a water system pump, the remodeling of historic buildings, the building renovation fund and housing opportunities in addition to campground and dance grounds development.
The Pawnee Nation was on of the 41 tribes to receive a portion of the $1.023 billion compensation. The lawsuit was originally filed by eleven tribes, including Pawnee Nation, on Dec. 28, 2006. Legal restraints prevented disclosure of these funds until the records were officially unsealed enabling the PBC to disseminate the information.
"One of the largest challenges in this lawsuit was the lengthy process of the litigation resulting from the need to gather and review claims against the government that go back a long way and figuring and assessing the legal theories and possible government defenses in determining what the possible outcome may," said Melody McCoy, staff attorney for NARF. "I think this instance has put the government on notice and hopefully steps will be taken to set a better course for the future."
For more information, please contact the Pawnee Nation Communications Office at (918) 762-3621 Ext. 25 or at (918) 399-1344 or visit www.pawneenation.org.