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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


April 6, 2002 - Issue 58


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Cobell Among Four to get Honorary Doctorates from MSU

by Bozeman Daily Chronicle
PHOTOGRAPH BY GWENDOLEN CATES PAGE 4 •SEPTEMBER 9,2001 •PARADE MAGAZINE Montana State University will award four honorary doctorate degrees at its 106th graduation ceremony May 11, including one to the Blackfeet woman who has battled the federal government over billions of dollars owed to American Indians for a century of trust land mismanagement.

Elouise Cobell of Browning, plaintiff in the class-action lawsuit against the federal government, will be honored, along with Stuart Conner of Billings, who is a leader in the preservation of rock art and Indian oral history; Whitney MacMillan, retired president of Cargill, who is active in world hunger campaigns; and Mary Munger of Helena, a nursing leader who fought for collective bargaining for nurses.

Cobell, who grew up one of nine children on the Blackfeet reservation, became the tribe's treasurer. In 1996 she was named lead plaintiff in Cobell vs. Babbitt, one of the largest class-action lawsuits ever brought against the federal government. The suit sought $12 billion in restitution for money owed from mining, logging and other development on millions of acres of Indian land.

The suit, brought on behalf of 500,000 American Indians, argued that the government never created a system to balance the accounts or track whether Indians were being paid. In 1999 a federal appeals court judge ruled that the U.S. had breached its trust duties. The case remains in the courts.

In 1997, Cobell was awarded the prestigious "genius grant" from the MacArthur Foundation and applied her $300,000 award to the lawsuit expenses. She also helped launch the Blackfeet National Bank in Browning, the first Indian-owned financial institution in the United States, and remains chair of its board.

Browning, MT Map

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  Canku Ota is a free Newsletter celebrating Native America, its traditions and accomplishments . We do not provide subscriber or visitor names to anyone. Some articles presented in Canku Ota may contain copyright material. We have received appropriate permissions for republishing any articles. Material appearing here is distributed without profit or monetary gain to those who have expressed an interest. This is in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107.  

Canku Ota is a copyright © 2000, 2001, 2002 of Vicki Lockard and Paul Barry.


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