GREAT FALLS – Elouise Cobell has been inducted into the Native American Hall Of Fame.
Cobell is best known for being the lead plaintiff in the groundbreaking class-action lawsuit Cobell v. Salazar. It challenged how the United States mismanaged trust funds that belonged to more than 500,000 Native Americans. The U.S. Government awarded a $3.4 billion dollar settlement in the case, the largest settlement in American history.
Cobell was inducted under the category of “Advocacy,” and the site says of her achievements: “A respected tribal elder, Cobell was the lead plaintiff in the groundbreaking class-action suit Cobell v. Salazar that challenged the United States’ mismanagement of trust funds belonging to more than 500,000 individual Native Americans. She was instrumental in the U.S. government awarding $3.4 billion settlement for the trust case, the largest settlement in history.”
Former President Barack Obama awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Cobell in 2016, four years after her passing in 2011.
James Parker Shield of the Little Shell/Chippewa Tribe in Great Falls is the Hall Of Fame’s founder and CEO.
Other inductees include Lori Piestewa, who was the first Native American woman in history to die in combat while serving in the U.S. military; and Wilma Mankiller, the first woman elected to serve as principal chief of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma.
You can see the complete list of inductees by visiting the Hall Of Fame website.
On Tuesday, October 16, the CMR Museum will host a public screening of “100 Years: One Woman’s Fight for Justice.”
- Afternoon Screening: 2:00–3:30 p.m.
- Evening Screening & Discussion: 6:00–8:00 p.m.
- 6:00 PM: Introduction and remarks on the fall exhibition, Indian Country: The Art of David Bradley from Emily Wilson, C.M. Russell Museum Curator
- 6:15 PM: 100 Years: One Woman’s Fight for Justice
- 7:30 PM: Conservation on the Blackfeet Reservation: Dylan DesRosier, Land Protection Specialist, The Nature Conservancy in Montana.
- 8:00 p.m. – Discussion closes and visitors are invited to view the exhibition Indian Country: The Art of David Bradley
Reporting by David Sherman for MTN News
(AUGUST 10, 2017) Former President Barack Obama awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Elouise Cobell in 2016, four years after her passing in 2011. Her son, Turk, accepted the country’s highest civilian honor on her behalf.
On Wednesday, the medal was brought to Browning.
“This is home for us, for all of us, and y’know it’s good to have it back with the Blackfeet people first,” said Cobell’s sister Joy Ketah.
Relatives say while the medal is home in Montana, it represents a victory for all tribes around the country.
Cobell spent nearly two decades in a legal battle to recover almost 3.5 billion dollars that were mismanaged by the Department of Interior. It was the largest class-action settlement against the federal government.
“And to win in their own courts is a great day for victory and like I said in the speech earlier, she is with us and she is with her people and she is proud, she would be very proud today,” said Cobell’s nephew James Jay Dusty Bull.
The settlement created the Land Buy-Back Program, which provided $1.9 billion to buy back and consolidate fractional land interest across Indian Country.
The Cobell Settlement also established the National Commission on Indian Trust Administration and Reform along with an Indian Education Scholarship Fund.
Since then, the program has paid more than $740 million to individual landowners and restored the equivalent of nearly 1.5 million acres of land to tribal governments.
“She was a role model for everyone to stand up and say ‘Enough is enough, we’re not going to stand for this anymore we’re just as good as anybody else and we’re just as intelligent anybody else’,” said Cobell’s sister Julene Kennery.
Cobell’s accomplishments also included helping establish the Native American Bank and she served as Director of the Native American Community Development Corporation.
Family and community members say her life’s work has been felt across the nation and sets a strong precedent for future Tribal leaders.
“Stand up for what you believe in, be proud of who you are and where you come from,” said Cobell’s niece Christine Powell.