NESPELEM – A petition calling for tribal members to receive 50 percent of a lawsuit settlement has traction with the new Colville Business Council.
Last week, the new council set Aug. 11 as the date for a tribal vote on distributing 30 percent more of the Tribal Trust Settlement, new tribal Chairman John Sirois said.
The decision to put the issue to a vote comes after Joanne Sanchez presented a petition signed by 2,092 Colville tribal members to increase the disbursement to 50 percent, up from the 20 percent approved by the previous tribal council
If approved by tribal members, the total individual payout would be half of the $193 million settlement.
“The outgoing Colville Business Council … approved distributing 20 percent of the trust settlement funds to members. This will occur on Aug. 3,” Sirois said last week.
“The newly-seated council, in recognition of a petition recently presented to CBC, and in keeping with the intent of other CBC actions taken Thursday, has directed that a referendum vote be held on distributing an additional 30 percent of the settlement.
“We have heard the voices of our citizens and we feel a referendum vote will give the council a greater understanding of the desire of the citizens,” Sirois said. “We will take all the steps necessary to hold the vote on Aug. 11.”
The Colville’s Tribal Trust Settlement, one of the largest American Indian trust mismanagement settlements in U.S. history, brought to resolution one of several dozen similar cases against the federal government.
The Colville tribe’s settlement was approved in May by a federal court judge. The court also approved settlements in more than 40 other tribal trust cases.
The settlement agreement guaranteed that 20 percent of the funds would be deposited in a trust account — this is the amount already approved for distribution to tribal members Aug. 3.
A petition submitted by tribal members asked for 50 percent of those funds.
“It is only right that the CBC hold a referendum vote for an additional 30 percent disbursement, as requested by a significant number of our membership through the petition process,” Sirois said. “We are on an extremely fast track to hold the vote, but our Elections staff can take all the steps necessary for the Aug. 11 vote.”
Sanchez is also gathering signatures to recall council vice chairman Michael O. Finley and Councilman Brian Nissen.