The Obama administration announced Monday that is agreed [press release] to pay [settlement agreement] over $492 million to 17 Native American tribes. The lawsuits accused [WP report] the government of mismanaging natural resources and other tribal assets. According to the Obama administration, more than100 lawsuits were filed totaling more than $3.3 billion in damages against the federal government. The US government is trustee [NPR report] to a large portion of tribal land and manages almost 56 million acres on behalf of tribes. Under the trust agreement, the US government must ensure the tribe receives “just compensation for the use of their land and resources.” According to the lawsuits, the government did not manage the land well and the tribes lost a lot of income. Since Obama has taken office, there have been almost 100 settlements with tribes.
The rights of indigenous peoples have become a pressing international legal topic in the past decade. In September a construction of a North Dakota pipeline was suspended [JURIST report] due to its construction over sacred tribal land. A federal appeals court in July rejected [JURIST report] Alaska’s challenge in a case determining the right of Alaskan tribes to place land in a federal trust. In May Canada’s Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Carolyn Bennett stated [JURIST report] it would drop its objector status against the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. In April JURIST Guest Columnist Dwight Newman of the University of Saskatchewan discussed [JURIST op-ed] what is happening with recent leave decisions related to Indigenous rights and Canadian energy regulation. In March Canadian indigenous people, including Inuits of Nunavut and the Chippewa, were granted [JURIST report] an appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada, challenging the use of seismic testing to find natural gas under the Davis Strait and Baffin Bay. In February experts from the UN and the Inter-American human rights systems urged [JURIST report] Canada to address the “root causes” of the extreme violence and discrimination against indigenous women and girls in that country.