Anyone who's ever been through a court battle over a trust or estate knows how important it is for everyone involved. But some cases carry more importance than others. The recently-resolved case of Cobell vs. Salazar has as much importance to our nation as any trust fight has ever had.
Elouise Cobell is the lead plaintiff in a class action suit against The United States Secretary of the Interior. The lawsuit involves the rights of Native Americans under Individual Indian trusts that began under laws passed in 1887. At that time, tribal lands of Native Americans were parceled out by the government and assigned to individuals, in lots between 40 and 160 acres in size.
But the individual Native Americans weren't allowed to actually own the land. The government did, leasing the lands for mineral and grazing rights, among other uses, and paying the proceedings into a series of informal trusts. The United States Secretary of the Interior was charged with administering the trusts for the benefit of the individuals who were assigned to each parcel.