CHEYENNE (AP) - Members of Wyoming's two American Indian tribes will share in a $12 million settlement in a dispute over underpaid mineral royalties between 1973 and 2000.
The money will be divided evenly between the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone tribes. Eighty-five percent of the award will be split evenly among tribe members and 15 percent will go to the tribal government.
There are about 7,500 Arapaho tribe members and about 3,600 Shoshone. Each member of the Arapaho tribe will receive about $680 and Shoshone tribe members should receive about $1,400.
"The settlement has been a long time in coming and I think my people here, they really need to accept this money and use it because right now our employment is at 70 percent and our poverty level is about 60 percent," said Burton Hutchinson, Sr., chairman of the Arapaho Business Council.
"The tribes believe this litigation has led and will lead to changes which will avoid the need for this type of litigation in the future," said Vernon Hill, chairman of the Shoshone Business Council.
The U.S. Department of Justice on Friday approved the payment that stemmed from a December agreement in a lawsuit between tribes and the government on mismanaged funds and resources.
The tribes contend that royalty payments for oil and gas extracted from tribal land were consistently underpaid between 1973 and 2000 and that the federal government failed to protect the tribes' rights.
Willie Noseep, of the Shoshone Business Council, said the $12 million is the second phase of a four-part case against the federal government. The first phase resulted in the tribes receiving $2.75 million in 2001 for claims relating to sand and gravel being removed from the reservation.
Claims of trust mismanagement, oil and gas claims not relating to royalties and claims for mismanagement of royalties prior to 1973 remain in dispute.
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