Tribe won't reveal plans for settlement funds

Use of $18 million is considered confidential

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The Coeur d'Alene Tribe is not revealing how it will use $18 million it just received from a federal settlement over mismanagement of tribal money and trust lands, said the tribe's legislative director on Wednesday.

"The tribe considers its use of the settlement proceeds as confidential," Helo Hancock said, confirming that the tribal council made that decision.

The Coeur d'Alene Tribe received the funds about a month ago, Hancock said, as part of the federal government's settlement of tribal trust claims with 41 tribes.

The U.S. government announced this April it would pay tribes more than $1 billion for failing to adequately oversee the finances of tribal lands the federal government manages in trusts.

Hancock said that has included failing to transfer funds to the tribes from mineral leases and timber harvest on tribal property.

It is unknown where those dollars went, Hancock said.

"It's important that people understand, this is like a reimbursement for tribal dollars that were lost, that came up missing over decades of mismanagement," Hancock said.

The Coeur d'Alene Tribe wasn't appropriately compensated in the past for agricultural and timber interests on its trust land that was managed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, he said.

There's no way to know if the settlement covers what the tribes should have collected, Hancock noted.

"It's difficult to say, was this the exact amount, that makes everything whole?" he said. "No, but it's definitely a step in the right direction."

The Coeur d'Alene Tribe has about 2,200 enrolled members, Hancock said. He confirmed a study that showed the tribe has a $309 million economic impact a year on the region.

About 25 percent of the tribe's 345,000 reservation acres are trust land, Hancock said.

The Nez Perce Tribe in North Idaho also collected $33.7 million earlier this month as part of the settlement, according to the Associated Press.

The tribe has announced that $3 million will go to the Native American Rights Fund, and the rest will be distributed to individual tribal members.

Each of the 3,500 members will receive roughly $8,600.

Coeur d'Alene Tribe Chairman Chief Allan was invited to speak at the White House in April about the settlement, which Hancock lauded as a great honor.

"At some point you have to try to wrap these things up and start moving forward," Hancock said.

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