Elouise Cobell awarded 2005 Cultural Freedom Fellowship

Elouise CobellElouise Cobell, a banker from Browning, Montana, is the lead plaintiff in one of the largest class action lawsuit against the United States government, for breach of its trust duties to thousands of individual Native Americans. Cobell vs. Norton is an on-going legal attempt to force the United States Department of the Interior to fix its accounting system and properly account for billions of dollars it manages on behalf of individual Indians.

Ms. Cobell’s persistence in bringing the charges to trial has shone a bright light on more than a century of government malfeasance and dishonesty. Indeed, the District Court Judge presiding over the case called the government’s mismanagement of the funds “fiscal and governmental irresponsibility in its purest form.”

Ms. Cobell is the Executive Director of the Native American Community Development Corporation, a nonprofit affiliate of Native American Bank. She also served as Chairperson for the Blackfeet National Bank, the first national bank located on an Indian reservation and owned by a Native American tribe.

Ms. Cobell was one of the lead organizers of the bank and was instrumental in the formation of the Blackfeet Reservation Development Fund. A member of the Blackfeet Indian Nation, Ms. Cobell served for thirteen years as the tribe’s treasurer. In addition to operating a working ranch with her husband, she is active in local agriculture and environmental issues.


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