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Navajo Tribe Poised to Receive Largest Settlement Ever in Mismanagement Conflict

The Navajo Tribe is poised to receive $554 million from the federal government in the largest settlement of its kind for a single American Indian Tribe over mismanagement of tribal resources.

Much of the land on the 27,000 square-mile reservation has been leased for things such as farming, grazing, oil and gas development, mining and housing. The leases were once mostly overseen by the government, which mismanaged the revenue and failed to properly invest and account for it, according to the tribe.

The tribe agreed to settle the case earlier in the year but was awaiting signatures from federal agencies before the deal became finalized. The Navajo Tribe originally wanted $960 million when the lawsuit was first filed in 2006.

“We had a strong claim,” said Navajo Nation Council Delegate Lorenzo Curley.

Public meetings will be held to ask Navajos how they think the money would best be spent, Curley said. The first meeting is scheduled in October. Tribal members have already suggested that the money be set aside for future generations or used for business development, he said.

Andrew Sandler, one of the Navajo Nation’s attorneys on the case, said the tribe has taken on much of the responsibility for leasing on its land, KRMG reports. If further conflicts arise with the federal government, the settlement outlines a process to resolve them.

“This was viewed as an appropriate and respectful settlement where the federal government acknowledged its responsibility and acted in an honorable way,” Sandler said. “It was a good result for all parties, and appropriate result for all parties, and it creates finality.”

Tribes countrywide have filed more than 100 breach-of-trust cases against the U.S. government. The Navajo Tribe settlement is the largest of its kind, exceeding the next highest amount by $170 million, Sandler Said.

Sandler said the Navajo Tribe will most likely receive the money within 60 days.

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