POPLAR — Per-capita checks of $1,500 were handed out Tuesday in Poplar to all Fort Peck tribal members.
The money is being given out as part of a $75 million settlement the Fort Peck Tribes reached with the federal government.
Hundreds of people began lining up early at the Poplar Cultural Center, which is the distribution site for all per-capita checks. Doors opened at 8 a.m., and people began filing in 30 at a time.
Security at the center was tight, with police armed with assault rifles on patrol. Officers also were on the roof of the building, and police had tear gas on hand.
The distribution was the first of two payments coming out of the settlement. There will be another at Christmastime for $1,000.
During a special Tribal Council meeting on Aug. 31, tribal leaders voted 8-0 to pay out $2,500 to each adult tribal member, with $1,500 to come right away and $1,000 at Christmastime.
The question of payments for children will be taken up by the Tribal Council.
The Tribal Council came up with the amount after a caucus in the chairman's office during a 15-minute recess.
There are approximately 13,000 tribal members; half of them live off the reservation.
The Fort Peck Tribes were the victims of government mismanagement of trust income that was supposed to go to the tribal government.
The settlement is different from the Cobell settlement, which deals with individual allotted trust lands. This settlement is for tribal lands held in trust by the federal government.
Payments from leases for agriculture and other activity on these lands were handled by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, which would mismanage these monies and as a result the tribes would get less money then what they were entitled to in income.
The October payment will cost approximately $32.5 million.
When the tribes had the settlement money in their bank accounts, community meetings were held across the Fort Peck Reservation to gather input from tribal members as to how they wanted the money to be spent. A vast majority of people said they wanted a per-capita payment. The other half of this is to be invested, but it's not clear what it will be put into yet. One of those will most likely be $1 million for glasses and dentures for needy tribal members, according to information from the tribal government.
Recently, the Northern Cheyenne Tribe of Montana distributed $2,000 per-capita payments to each tribal member.