Dept. of Interior searching for whereabouts of 17,000 Native Americans

Published: Nov. 17, 2017 at 1:55 PM AKST
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The Department of the Interior announced today it is taking the final steps in its efforts to identify the whereabouts of approximately 17,000 Native Americans to provide compensation as part of the Cobell settlement.

In 1996, Elouise Cobell, a member of the Blackfeet Tribe, and four other Native American representatives, filed a class-action lawsuit against the Department of the Interior and the Department of the Treasury. The plaintiffs claimed that the government had incorrectly accounted for income derived from Indian trust assets.

In 2009, the parties to the suit negotiated a settlement in the case, and in 2010 Congress passed implementing legislation designating $3.4 billion for the settlement: $1.4 billion was allocated to be paid to the plaintiffs and $1.9 billion was allocated for a Land Buy-Back Program and a newly created educational scholarship fund for American Indian and Alaska Native students.

The bulk of the settlement monies have already been paid to individual Indians. Despite extensive efforts to contact all potential claimants, there still remain several thousand Individual Indian Money (IIM) account holders who are classified as “whereabouts unknown" (WAU). These WAU accounts total millions of dollars in potential settlement payments. The Department has been making extensive efforts to reach these WAU account holders so that they or their heirs can submit their documentation before the November 27 deadline expires.

Alaska Natives who wonder if they might be on the list can visit


Class Members or the heirs of Class Members should provide documentation immediately to the GCG by calling 1-800-961-6109, by emailing

, or by U.S. mail to Indian Trust Settlement, P.O. Box 9577, Dublin, OH 43017-4877. Class members can also search

. If you have any questions about the OST Whereabouts Unknown Cobell list, call the Indian Trust Beneficiary Call Center at 1-888-678-6836.