Akin Gump Advises Osage Tribe of Indians in Landmark Settlement with U.S. Government

(Washington) Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP and Pipestem Law Firm PC have advised the Osage Tribe in the largest-ever settlement of a claim made by a tribe against the United States government. The $380 million settlement was announced at a signing ceremony held today at the U.S. Department of the Interior and attended by a number of U.S. government and Osage Tribe officials.

The settlement represents the culmination of 11 years of litigation regarding the government’s mismanagement of tribal assets.

“We are very pleased with today’s settlement, which has been a long time coming,” stated Don Pongrace, head of Akin Gump’s American Indian law and policy practice and leader of the Akin legal team that represented the Osage Tribe in the negotiations.

“Not only does this provide justice and satisfaction to our client via the resolution of this decades-long dispute, but it also reaffirms the trust and strong relationship between the U.S. government and the Osage Tribe,” Pongrace said.

Wilson Pipestem, co-counsel throughout the litigation and the final settlement negotiations, said, “It has been an honor to work with the Chiefs and other Osage leaders to reach an agreement that received overwhelming support from Osage headright holders.”

Present at today’s signing ceremony was a delegation of over 30 Osages, including Principal Chief John D. Red Eagle. “I am pleased that this settlement has finally come about,” Chief Red Eagle stated. “Too many tribal elders have passed on waiting for this day. This is a great day for the Osage Tribe.”

Also present were David Hayes and Hilary C. Tompkins, deputy secretary and solicitor, respectively, of the Department of the Interior; Ignacia Moreno, the assistant attorney general for environment and natural resources at the Department of Justice; George Madison, the general counsel for the Department of Treasury; and Mike Black, commissioner of the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

The settlement agreement was supported by 99.5 percent of Osages owning headrights, or rights to receive distributions of proceeds from the tribe’s subsurface mineral estate, and has also been approved by the U.S. government. The settlement is currently before the U.S. Treasury for confirmation of payment from the Judgment Fund, with payments to individual headright owners expected to commence by December 5, 2011.

Founded in 1945, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, a leading international law firm, numbers more than 800 lawyers in the United States, Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

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