Last week, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced a settlement of a lawsuit with the Choctaw and Chickasaw Indian nations to the tune of $186 million. The tribes had sued back in 2005 over land claims that had gone unaddressed since the early 20th century. See, the government dicked over the Indians, in that charming way the government so often had, by removing them from their land in places like Mississippi, all the way to Oklahoma, a process that had begun in the 1830s Trail of Tears.
Then the government sold the ancestral home of the tribes to timber companies, money which would have gone to the Native Americans if they had not been forced out. Of course, the companies made billions of dollars and the government violated the law, but, hey, $186 million is what the Choctaw and Chickasaw accepted. The Choctaw Chief himself called it "a great, historic day."
Since part of the job of the Obama administration has been to clean up the fuck-ups of the past, it has settled cases with 86 different tribes in similar cases since 2009. Another dozen or so are still being negotiated. This means that President Obama isn't just mopping up the blood after the Bush presidency. He's trying to right wrongs that go a long way back in our history.
Choctaw Chief Gary Barton also said, "We plan for the proceeds to be invested in our people – expanding education, creating jobs, promoting economic development and culture, as well as a portion to be invested in a sustainability fund for the future of our citizens." The governor of the Chickasaw nation said much the same. So far, the total paid out to all tribes is $2.8 billion, a paltry sum to regain a little of our national soul.
These actions have flown under the radar since they amount to unacknowledged reparations for the cruel actions of the white men against the indigenous peoples of America. But on this Columbus Day, as we distance ourselves more and more from the genocidal maniac who never landed here, it's good to know that an effort is being made to say that, while we didn't start the fire, someone's gotta put it out.