Montana Politicians Honor Elouise Cobell

By Beacon Staff

Upon hearing about the passing of Elouise Cobell, the Blackfeet woman who led a high-profile fight with the U.S. government over mismanaged American Indian land royalties, Montana’s top political figures quickly released statements yesterday honoring the activist. Cobell, 65, died Sunday of complications from cancer.

Cobell was the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit filed in 1996 claiming the Interior Department had misspent, lost or stolen billions of dollars meant for American Indian land trust account holders dating back to the 1880s. In 2009, the two sides agreed to settle for $3.4 billion, the largest government class-action settlement in U.S. history, according to the Associated Press.

Below are comments in their entirety from Montana’s three federal lawmakers and governor.

Gov. Brian Schweitzer:

“Elouise Cobell was an extraordinary Montana leader who had the fortitude to challenge an injustice that started more than one hundred years ago. Nancy and I are praying for her family and friends during this difficult time. The Blackfeet Nation and all of Montana have lost a true inspiration and hero.”

Rep. Denny Rehberg:

“As Jan and I join Montanans who grieve the loss of Elouise Cobell, we can’t help but remember the incredible things she accomplished with her life. Like anyone who had the honor to work side by side with Elouise in the pursuit of justice, I will never forget her determination to do the right thing. Her efforts are an inspiration for generations of Montanans to come.”

Sen. Max Baucus:

“Elouise Cobell was a warrior for justice, a voice for the voiceless, and a dear friend. Our state and our country are better for having known her. Mel’s and my thoughts and prayers go out to her family, her friends and all those who are still waiting to receive the justice Eloise dedicated herself to. Our hearts are heavy with the loss of Eloise, but we know her legacy will live on in all those inspired to carry on her work.”

Sen. Jon Tester:

“Elouise Cobell was a star—truly a guiding light that will always lead the way for all Americans who fight for justice and fairness. Elouise’s tireless leadership set this nation on a new course, and what she accomplished reminds us that any person in any part of this country has the power to stand up and right a wrong, no matter how difficult it may be.

Sharla’s and my thoughts and prayers are with Elouise’s husband Alvin, her son Turk, and her entire family. We join the Blackfeet Nation and all Montanans in mourning, honoring and celebrating the life of an extraordinary Montanan. Future generations will learn about Elouise Cobell’s legacy and they will be inspired to follow her lead. She will always be remembered as an American hero.”