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Native American Settlement Payments Delayed Again

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LAWTON Okla_ Some Native Americans in southwest Oklahoma are upset after another delay in payments from a multi-billion dollar legal settlement.

Around 30 people protested today outside the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Anadarko after learning that money that was supposed to come through this week, might not arrive until September.

They are individual landowners with land trust accounts that were mismanaged by the federal government. The courts have ruled that those in the class-action suit will share in a $3.4 billion settlement. How much they'll each get is still being debated, though. Those estimated payments are not only being delayed, but in some cases, reduced as much as $10,000. The lawsuit started more than 15 years ago and was settled in 2009. The payments have been promised to them four times now. Now, they are saying enough is enough.

"We do not want any more delays and we want to be paid," Landowner Kathy Ware-Perosi said. "We are tired of their promises and tired of their lies."

The protestors have called multiple times to find answers and have been given nothing. The attorneys representing them have already been paid. In fact, they are continuing to be paid, and it's coming out of their settlement.

"Every six months, they are allowed to get $12 million more," Landowner Ramon Perosi said. "So, they're raiding out of their funds every six months. You can imagine if they put it off year after year, how much money that's going to be."

Protestors talked about the need for the money now and waiting until September is not acceptable.

"The economy here is terrible," Land Owner Randy Ware said. "It's terrible, and we need this money immediately in order to survive here."

They talked about some of the older members of their tribes who have even had roofs collapse from a simple rain, because they couldn't afford to pay for it while waiting on their settlement.

"It's heart breaking to see our elders sitting here without electricity, without propane when they have this monies here waiting for them," Ware said.

At Monday's protest, they also held a drum circle ceremony for those who have died from the beginning of the settlement. That includes Elouise Cobell of Montana, who led the fight for the lawsuit and died of cancer in 2011.






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