The U.S. government will pay the Navajo Nation $554 million to settle claims that it mismanaged funds and natural resources on the tribe's reservation.
The lawsuit alleged that the U.S. “had breached its historical fiduciary obligations by failing to manage, invest and account for tribal trust funds and resources,” according to a statement by attorneys representing the Navajo Nation.
The lawsuit claimed the U.S. failed “to collect proper amounts due” for supervised leases for oil and gas, coal, uranium and timber on land owned by the country's largest tribe.
The Navajos' original claim sought $900 million in damages, but an agreement was reached to drop the lawsuit in exchange for a settlement of $554 million.
"This historic agreement resolves a long-standing dispute between the United States and the Navajo Nation, including some claims that have been sources of tension for generations," Attorney General Eric Holder said Wednesday in a statement. "It will provide important resources to the Navajo Nation. And it fairly and honorably resolves a legal conflict over the accounting and management of tribal resources."
The $554 payment is the largest settlement obtained in any action by a single tribe against the U.S., according to the tribe’s attorneys. It exceeds previous agreements by $170 million.
"The trust litigation has been a protracted battle, and in the end, it was a victory for tribal sovereignty," Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly said Wednesday in a statement. "The Navajo Nation has worked tirelessly for many years to bring this issue to a close."
The first public hearing to look at how the tribe should allocate the $554 million is scheduled for Oct. 6 in Chinle, Arizona, according to the Navajo Times.