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In Record Settlement, U.S. To Pay $554 Million To Navajo Nation

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In Record Settlement, U.S. To Pay $554 Million To Navajo Nation

Law

In Record Settlement, U.S. To Pay $554 Million To Navajo Nation

In Record Settlement, U.S. To Pay $554 Million To Navajo Nation

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The U.S. government has agreed to settle claims that it mismanaged funds and natural resources on the tribe's reservation. It's the largest settlement made with a single Native American tribe.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

The Navajo Nation is about to get the largest settlement the U.S. has ever agreed to pay to a single Native American tribe - $554 million. It will settle a lawsuit that claims the federal government mismanaged funds and natural resources on the Navajo reservation. Hansi Lo Wang of NPR's Code Switch team has more.

HANSI LO WANG, BYLINE: The settlement marks the end of a dispute going back more than half a century.

DESWOOD TOME: This is a significant achievement for the Navajo Nation because it is unprecedented.

WANG: Deswood Tome is an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation. He serves as a special advisor to the tribe's president.

TOME: Usually, the settlements are much smaller in nature. This was very comprehensive because there were years and years of mismanagement.

WANG: The lawsuit was first filed in 2006. But it cites complaints going back to 1946.

DANA BOBROFF: What many people do not realize is that Indian tribes do not own the land on their reservations.

WANG: Dana Bobroff is the Deputy Attorney General for the Navajo Nation.

BOBROFF: That land is owned by the United States and held in trusts for the tribes.

WANG: About 14 million acres of the Navajo reservation, the largest in the U.S., are overseen by the federal government, which leases it out for farming, oil and gas development and other types of businesses. The Navajo Nation claims the federal government did not act in its best interest when managing these resources on the tribe's reservation. But Dana Bobroff says the tribe has agreed to dismiss the complaints as part of the settlement.

BOBROFF: Of course, the $554 million will do wonders as far as providing opportunities for the upcoming generations.

WANG: The Obama administration has agreed to pay more than $2.6 billion dollars to settle lawsuits with several tribes since 2010. Deswood Tome of the Navajo Nation says the tribe will decide in the coming months what to do with their settlement money, which he says is more than a financial victory.

TOME: I believe that other tribes are going to be inspired as they move toward making settlements respectively with their tribes.

WANG: The settlement agreement will be formally signed tomorrow at the tribe's headquarters in Window Rock, Arizona. Hansi Lo Wang, NPR News.

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