“It’s the same old story. It is, the government says to the Native people, “this is your land, but we will dictate what to do with that land.””
Elouise Cobell was a Blackfeet warrior, and lead plaintiff in a groundbreaking class-action suit which challenged the United States’ mismanagement of trust funds belonging to more than 500,000 individual Native Americans. She pursued the suit from 1996, challenging the government to account for fees from resource leases. In 2010 the government approved a record breaking $3.4 billion settlement for the trust case.
Cobell and her fight is the subject of 100 Years: One Woman’s Fight for Justice.
Melinda Janko, the producer and director of the film, told KGNU’s Maeve Conran that the story began in the 19th century when the United States government decided to manage the millions of acres of land that had been allocated to Native peoples. The land was rich of natural resources, but Native peoples were never given compensation for development on the land.
“They were never consulted by any oil companies or anybody who signed a contract to use their land through the government. They were never consulted.”
In 1996, the Indian Trust became the subject of the largest class action suit ever filed against the Federal Government. Cobell who was the lead plaintiff in the case, thought the lawsuit would only take a few years, but in reality it lasted fifteen years.
“Each administration didn’t want this thing. They knew they had the liability, and no administration wanted this to blow up on their watch.”
Janko says the parallels between Cobell’s story and what is happening now at Standing Rock are incredibly similar.
“It’s the same old story. It is, the government says to the Native people, “this is your land, but we will dictate what to do with that land” and it’s the same story at Standing Rock as it was back in the 19th century when they created this trust.”
The film will be screened at the Arvada Center for the Arts this Friday, February 10, 2017 at 7:00pm. It will be followed by a discussion with Producer and Director, Melinda Janko, and John E. Echohawk, Executive Director and Attorney for the Native American Rights Fund in Boulder. More information can be found at www.arvadacenter.org