Thursday, August 30, 2012

Millions of dollars awarded to Cherokee farmers in government settlement

TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Hundreds of Cherokee farmers received settlement payments this week from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for $50,000 each. The payment stems from the Keepseagle Settlement, which alleged that between 1981 and 1999 the USDA failed to provide technical assistance and, in some cases, denied or charged higher interest rates to Native Americans for farm loans.

“This is something we have diligently worked on for 15 years,” said Principal Chief Bill John Baker. “It was based on the federal government not fulfilling their promises to Cherokee farmers. For years Councilor Joe Byrd and I repeatedly brought up the issue in Washington D.C., and they finally recognized the problem and fixed it. These funds will provide much-needed assistance to Cherokee farmers and ranchers and have a major economic impact on the Cherokee Nation.”

Baker reached out to Cherokee County banks and financial institutions to allow recipients to cash or deposit their settlement checks. He said there has been some alarm at so many recipients walking into banks with checks for such large sums of money.

“I hope all of our local banks recognize these checks are legitimate and work with our farmers to process their funds,” Baker said.

Eleven-hundred Native American farmers in northeast Oklahoma filed against the USDA, more than anywhere else in the country, according to Alicia Seyler, an Oklahoma tribal representative who assisted with USDA loans through the Intertribal Agricultural Council. The $760 million Keepseagle v. Vilsack suit was settled in 2010.

Those who received checks in August were part of the Track A claims. Claimants with outstanding USDA loans will be notified at the end of October whether some or all of the debt will be relieved. More severe claims, Track B, will be notified by mail by Oct. 30.

The deadline to file a claim was Dec. 27, 2011. For more information on the Keepseagle Settlement, visit www.indianfarmclass.com or contact Alicia Seyler at (918) 699-9850 or aseyler@indianaglink.com.

alt textAbout Cherokee Nation

The Cherokee Nation is the federally recognized government of the Cherokee people and has inherent sovereign status recognized by treaty and law. The seat of tribal government is the W.W. Keeler Complex near Tahlequah, Okla., the capital of the Cherokee Nation.  With more than 300,000 citizens, over 8,000 employees and a variety of tribal enterprises ranging from aerospace and defense contracts to entertainment venues, Cherokee Nation is one of the largest employers in northeastern Oklahoma and the largest tribal nation in the United States. To learn more, please visit www.cherokee.org.

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