U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken and Representatives Collin Peterson and Chip Cravaack today announced that their legislation allowing Minnesota Chippewa Tribe Bands to receive funds from a 1999 settlement has passed the Senate, and will now head to the President's desk to be signed into law. Legislation is needed to resolve the situation because the Interior Department did not distribute the trust funds within one year of the judgment. Klobuchar and Franken introduced the bill in the Senate and companion legislation introduced by Representatives Peterson and Cravaack has already passed the House of Representatives.
"When the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe agreed to this settlement, they expected to receive the funds in a timely manner," Klobuchar said. "Today's action will ensure they finally receive the settlement they deserve."
"Minnesota's Chippewa Tribe has been waiting over thirteen years for the money they're owed by the federal government, and it's time for the government to do the right thing," said Sen. Franken, a member of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee. "I've been working for years to get this through the Senate, and I'm pleased that we've finally gotten it done."
"H.R. 1272 is the best and most realistic compromise to release this long overdue settlement. It has been thirteen years and, while I would have liked to see all six Bands be in unanimous agreement on how these funds should be used, I believe it is high time this settlement is finally distributed and put to work within these communities. The settlement will help Reservations meet their needs for school, health care facility and infrastructure improvements," said Peterson.
"I represent five of the six bands that constitute the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe. Their representatives have all made it very clear to me that it is more than past-time to bring resolution to this long-standing issue. I agree," said Cravaack."Furthermore, my colleagues and I agree that this legislation is the solution to fulfill the U.S. government's legal obligations, conclude its litigation with the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, and release the over $28 million in settlement funds in an expeditious manner. I am pleased that the House and Senate have acted on this important bill so we can finally bring resolution to this long-standing issue."
In June of 1999, the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe agreed to a $20 million settlement with the U.S. government. The funds were transferred to the Department of Interior and deposited into a trust fund account established for the Tribe. Because the Interior Department failed to distribute the funds in the amount of time allowed, Congress must act to authorize the use or distribution of funds. The members' legislation, the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe Judgment Fund Distribution Act, commonly known as the "Nelson Act Settlement," resolves this situation by providing the necessary congressional authorization. Senator Franken authored the bill in the Senate and Representative Peterson authored the bill in the House.