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Cobell family welcomes Presidential Medal of Freedom to Browning - KPAX.com | Continuous News | Missoula & Western Montana

Cobell family welcomes Presidential Medal of Freedom to Browning

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Former President Barack Obama awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Elouise Cobell in 2016, four years after her passing. (MTN News photo) Former President Barack Obama awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Elouise Cobell in 2016, four years after her passing. (MTN News photo)
Relatives say while the medal is home in Montana, it represents a victory for all tribes around the country. (MTN News photo) Relatives say while the medal is home in Montana, it represents a victory for all tribes around the country. (MTN News photo)
The settlement created the Land Buy-Back Program, which provided $1.9 billion to buy back and consolidate fractional land interest across Indian Country. (MTN News photo) The settlement created the Land Buy-Back Program, which provided $1.9 billion to buy back and consolidate fractional land interest across Indian Country. (MTN News photo)
BROWNING -

Former President Barack Obama awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Elouise Cobell in 2016, four years after her passing in 2011. Her son, Turk, accepted the country's highest civilian honor on her behalf.

The medal was brought to Browning earlier this week, "this is home for us, for all of us, and y'know it's good to have it back with the Blackfeet people first," said Cobell's sister Joy Ketah. 

Relatives say while the medal is home in Montana, it represents a victory for all tribes around the country.

Cobell spent nearly two decades in a legal battle to recover almost 3.5 billion dollars that were mismanaged by the Department of Interior. It was the largest class-action settlement against the federal government.

"And to win in their own courts is a great day for victory and like I said in the speech earlier, she is with us and she is with her people and she is proud, she would be very proud today," said Cobell's nephew James Jay Dusty Bull.

The settlement created the Land Buy-Back Program, which provided $1.9 billion to buy back and consolidate fractional land interest across Indian Country.

The Cobell Settlement also established the National Commission on Indian Trust Administration and Reform along with an Indian Education Scholarship Fund.

Since then, the program has paid more than $740 million to individual landowners and restored the equivalent of nearly 1.5 million acres of land to tribal governments.

"She was a role model for everyone to stand up and say 'Enough is enough, we're not going to stand for this anymore we're just as good as anybody else and we're just as intelligent anybody else'," said Cobell's sister Julene Kennery.

Cobell's accomplishments also included helping establish the Native American Bank and she served as Director of the Native American Community Development Corporation.

Family and community members say her life's work has been felt across the nation and sets a strong precedent for future Tribal leaders.

"Stand up for what you believe in, be proud of who you are and where you come from," said Cobell's niece Christine Powell. 

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