"If you report a rape, a cop might show up the next day," Dorgan said. "It's a full-blown scandal."
Congress approved $3.4 billion to settle the lost royalties case, which covers claims that Native Americans were swindled out of payments for oil, gas, timber and grazing rights for more than a century. As many as 500,000 American Indians will receive at least $1,500 apiece; some will get significantly more.
A total of $2 billion will be used to buy broken-up Indian lands from individual owners willing to sell, with the lands turned over to tribes. Another $60 million will go to a scholarship fund for young Indians.
The settlement was reached in late 2009, but was not approved by Congress until the lame-duck session that ended just before Christmas.
A separate settlement with the Agriculture Department will pay Indian farmers $680 million for improper denial of farm loans. The settlements and new laws, Dorgan said, are a matter of honor.
"We signed these treaties and made promises — in writing — and then broke them all," he said. "This is about keeping the country's promises."
On the Net:
National Congress of American Indians: http://www.ncai.org
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