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Tribal Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Over Salazar Money
Lawsuit over distribution of $150 million in federal settlement
PABLO – A tribal judge has dismissed a lawsuit by members of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes who wanted the tribe to distribute to its members all of the $150 million it received under a federal settlement.

"The Salazar settlement simply did not vest any individual tribal members with a legal right to demand any of the settlement proceeds," Tribal Judge B.J. Jones wrote in his decision.

The CSKT Tribal Council in 2012 voted to distribute just over half the money the tribe received under the Salazar settlement, which was paid for the federal government's mismanagement of assets and natural resources it held in trust for the tribes. The settlement is named for former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.

Members received $10,000 each and the tribal council put another $72 million in an investment account.

A group called The People's Voice sued, arguing its members "have a property right to the entire proceeds" from the settlement.

Judge Jones said the Salazar money was clearly not intended for individual tribal members, the tribe said in a statement. Nothing prevented tribal government from distributing it that way, but nothing prevented it from investing some either, he said.

The Salazar settlement is separate from the settlement of a class-action lawsuit filed by the late Elouise Cobell, which made restitution for similar mismanagement by the federal government involving trusts for individual tribal members.
 
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