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Obama administration approves nearly $1-billion settlement with Native Americans

The Obama administration has approved a nearly $1-billion settlement with hundreds of Native American tribes, apparently ending a quarter-century of litigation over the failure to reimburse the tribes for providing services that are the federal government’s responsibility.

The federal government for years had contracted with the tribes to provide services like schools and law enforcement, but then failed to fully reimburse them, saying that Congress had not appropriated enough money.

But in a 5-4 decision in 2012, the Supreme Court ordered the government to pay up.

If the agreement is approved by a federal judge in New Mexico, the money will be distributed among 645 tribes or tribal entities, including many in California.

The largest beneficiaries are the Ramah Navajo Chapter and the Pueblo of Zuni, both of New Mexico, and the Oglala Sioux tribe of North Dakota, and their lawyers.

“This agreement does more than simply resolve this pending litigation," Benjamin C. Mizer, head of the Justice Department's Civil Division, said in a statement. "It also is an embodiment of a stronger relationship between the United States and the sovereign tribal nations, a relationship that is stronger today than perhaps any time in history.”

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