Shirley Butterfly DeVolve remembers from a
very young age a plaintive question asked by her father: "Where's our money?" That question went to the heart of a massive class-action lawsuit against the federal government that dragged on for 14 years, resulting in a $3.4 billion settlement that the U.S. House of Representatives approved Friday.
Filed by lead plaintiff Elouise Cobell of Browning, Mont., in
1996, the suit represents more than 300,000 Indian landowners in almost every state. They contend they were swindled by the U.S. government, which was supposed to serve as trustee over the land. The settlement must still be accepted the Senate. But even as outlined, the deal created broad confusion, anger and lingering resentment across Indian Country.