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US to Pay Navajo Nation Over $550 Million in Landmark Settlement

Settlement ends suit brought forth by tribe charging that federal government had mismanaged its trust resources in a way that did not maximize profits

The Navajo Nation and federal government will sign on Friday a half-billion dollar settlement. (Photo:  Wolfgang Staudt/flickr/cc)

The U.S. government will pay the Navajo Nation $554 million as part of a historic settlement, bringing to a close a suit that accused the federal government of mismanagement of tribal trust funds and resources.

A formal announcement and signing will take place Friday.

The deal, approved by the Navajo Nation Council in May, has been described as the largest settlement reached between the federal government and an individual tribe.

The settlement brings to an end a suit brought by the tribe in 2006 in the United States Court of Federal Claims charging that the federal government had mismanaged the Navajo Nation's trust funds and resources, with claims dating as far back as 1946.

Fourteen million acres of the tribe's land are in trust and leased out by the federal government for purposes including oil, gas and mineral mining, farming and other uses.

The suit claimed that "the United States had breached its fiduciary obligations arising under treaties, executive orders, federal statutes and regulations, and contractual documents by failing to manage, invest and account for tribal trust funds and resources under the custody and control of the United States in a manner that would maximize the financial return from those assets," a statement from the tribe explained.

"The agreement marks the successful conclusion of years of hard fought litigation and secures a very substantial award for the Navajo Nation," Naabik’iyátí ’ Committee Trust Mismanagement Litigation Task Force chair Council Delegate Lorenzo Curley stated in May. "It is very important for the Navajo people to understand that this agreement only addresses historical trust cl aims and does not prohibit or hinder our Nation from pursuing claims with respect to future conduct," he added.

Attorney General Eric Holder welcomed the resolution to the case, saying in a statement to media, "This landmark resolution ends protracted and burdensome litigation. It will provide important resources to the Navajo Nation. And it fairly and honorably resolves a legal conflict over the accounting and management of tribal resources."

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