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Elouise Cobell: The Blackfeet Banker Who Took on the Federal Government

Page history last edited by Marcella Walter 3 years ago

When Elouise Cobell, Yellow Bird Woman, a petite Blackfeet banker and accountant from Montana, started asking questions about missing money from government managed Indian Trust accounts, she never imagined that one day she would be taking on the world’s most powerful government. But what she discovered as the treasurer of her tribe was a trail of fraud and corruption leading all the way from Montana to Washington DC. "100 Years" is the story of her 30-year fight for justice for 300,000 Native Americans whose mineral rich lands were grossly mismanaged by the United States Government. In 1996, Cobell filed the largest class action lawsuit ever filed against the federal government. For fifteen long years, and through three Presidential administrations, Elouise Cobell never quit fighting on behalf of her tribe and many others who had sustainable unimaginable loss and pain during the Nation's settlement by European people. And never received the financial benefit they had been promised.  If ever there was a Montana story about conflict and how one person can bring some good--a kind of limited compromise--out of it, Cobell embodies it.  (Adapted the website for “100 Years:  One Woman’s Fight for Justice.”  See below.)



Secondary Sources:


Berger, Bethany R.. “Elouise Cobell: Bringing the United States to Account.” In Our Cause Will Ultimately Triumph: The Men and Women Who Preserved and Revitalized American Indian Sovereignty. Tim Alan Garrison, ed. Durham, N.C.: Carolina Academic Press, 2014.


Cates, Kristen. “Cobell’s Impact Felt Far and Wide.” Great Falls Tribune, October 18, 2011, 1A, 3A.


Coleman, Travis. “Blackfeet Woman’s Battle for Trust Settlement Long, Pitched.” Great Falls Tribune, January 3, 2010, 1A, 3A.


 “Indian Leader Cobell, 65, Dies.” Helena Independent Record, October 18, 2011.


Johnson, Peter. “Blackfeet Activist Cobell Wins $310,000 ‘Genius Grant.’” Great Falls Tribune, June 17, 1997, 1A, 8A.


Maas, Peter. “The Broken Promise.” Parade Magazine. September 9, 2001, 4-6.


Puckett, Karl. “Indians Extol Hard-Fought Trust Victory.” Great Falls Tribune. January 16, 2011, 1A, 3A.


Szpaller, Keila. “Cobell Speech Inspires, Shames.” Great Falls Tribune, July 4, 2005.


Primary and Secondary Sources on the Web:


Court documents related to the case:  http://www.indiantrust.com/documents


DesRosier, Ed. “Elouise Cobell Found and Won More Than One Battle for Natives.” Great Falls Tribune, November 10, 2011. http://www.indiantrust.com/article/tribletter.


“Elouise Remembered.” Letters, tributes, and e-mails including answers written by Cobell collected by Indian Country Today Media Network and Indian Trust.com. http://www.indiantrust.com/article/elousie_rem  and http://www.indiantrust.com/comments.


Ferguson, Laura K.  “Elouise Pepion Cobell:  Banker-Warrior.” Women’s History Matters Blog post.  http://montanawomenshistory.org/elouise-pepion-cobell-banker-warrior/


 Florio, Gwen (16 October 2011). "Elouise Cobell, force behind Indian trust case, dies at 65". Missoulian.


 Hevesi, Dennis (October 17, 2011). "Elouise Cobell, 65, Dies; Sued U.S. Over Indian Trust Funds". New York Times.


Janko, Melinda, producer/director. “100 Years: One Woman’s Fight for Justice.” Film.  http://www.100yearsthemovie.com/ Excellent basic explanations and timeline for Cobell’s work.


Mauk, Sally. Interview with Keith Harper. MTPR, April 16, 2013. http://mtprnews.wordpress.com/tag/cobell-v-kempthorne/.


National Network of Grantmakers Conference. Elouise Cobell presentation on YouTube.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HkEYFwrtlBw  (Students can continue to look for other filmed Cobell presentations as well.) 


“President Barack Obama Remembers Elouise Cobell.” November, 27, 2011. http://www.indiantrust.com/remember.


Whitty, Juila. “Elouise Cobell’s Accounting Coup.” Mother Jones. September 1, 2005. http://www.motherjones.com/toc/2005/09


Vertical Files at the Montana Historical Society Library: 


Cobell, Elouise; Blackfeet Nat’l Bank

Cobell, Joe

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