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2017-05-17 / More News

Keepseagle decision favors Native American ranchers and farmers


Marilyn Keepseagle, left, with Claryca Mandan and Porter Holder, plaintiffs in a class-action lawsuit by American Indian farmers, celebrate outside the federal courthouse in Washington in 2010, after claimants were awarded $680 million. Years later, much of the money was unclaimed. 
AP Photo Marilyn Keepseagle, left, with Claryca Mandan and Porter Holder, plaintiffs in a class-action lawsuit by American Indian farmers, celebrate outside the federal courthouse in Washington in 2010, after claimants were awarded $680 million. Years later, much of the money was unclaimed. AP Photo WASHINGTON –– On May 16, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled in favor of a class of Native American farmers and ranchers who were discriminated against by the federal government.

The D.C. Circuit ruling affirms the district court’s decision approving the plan for distribution of the remaining $380 million from the settlement fund that was established following a high-profile settlement between the farmers and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That ruling provides for an additional payment of $21,275 to each prevailing claimant; the balance of the funds will be distributed to not-for-profit organizations providing services to Native American farmers and ranchers.

The decision puts an end to a landmark case. Native American farmers and ranchers filed a class action suit against the USDA in 1999, alleging that the USDA discriminated against Native American applicants in the farm loan program.

Joseph M. Sellers of Cohen Milstein, who argued for the appellees states, “We are pleased that the court has approved the distribution of these funds to serve thousands of Native American farmers and ranchers whose work is an essential part of our nation’s economy and traditions. We look forward to putting this money to work to support farming and ranching among America’s first farmers. Native American farmers and ranchers who have been fighting for themselves and their families for nearly a decade can finally bring this case to a close.”

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